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February 5, 2018

The Edge of Seventeen (2017) --- "An Awkward Teen Faces A Mid-Life Crisis When She Discovers The World Doesn't Revolve Around Her."

Plot Summary
Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until an unexpected friendship with a thoughtful teen (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Kelly Fremon Craig (Post Grad) wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen, a 2017 coming-of-age story starring Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, and Woody Harrelson. Before seeing this film I thought that this was going to be your typical teen film about young teenagers in high school but that is not the case with this film. The Edge of Seventeen is a complex, unusual, and awkwardly charming film about a young girl’s identity crisis as she tries to navigate the high school social structure; it’s reminiscent of classic 80’s John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Sixteen Candles (1984).

     Director/writer Craig crafted a relatable story that manages to tug at our heartstrings, deliver great pop culture references, and keeps us engaged until the end. The most noteworthy attribute of the story is that Craig not only takes us on Nadine’s (Hailee Steinfeld) journey through the film but she also takes us inside the character of Nadine. Craig gives us moments alone with Nadine where we can see her emotions in her eyes and facial expressions. We see a fragile girl unwillingly reveal all her fears – of being alone, never finding love, etc. – and we see how she deals with problems and concerns, by lashing out at those who are just trying to help. This natural relatability to the story is partly aided by the wonderful acting of the film's lead and the supporting cast.
     The best part about the script is that each character was very well developed, which is rare especially with coming-of-age films where we need to be able to relate to the characters in order to understand the entire story. This film’s story is very dependent upon the developed characters because we see throughout the film that Nadine is not the only one experiencing problems after something happened in her family. Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2 & 3; True Grit) played Nadine perfectly and she was captivating in every moment of screen time. I first became aware of her actions when I saw her 2010 film True Grit starring Jeff Bridges (R.I.P.D), Matt Damon (Great Wall), and Josh Brolin (Only the Brave). You know you have someone special when they can stand up to as well as steal the scene from great actors like the ones she starred with in True Grit. Although this film is an entirely different genre, Steinfeld still manages to steal the show. Something happened in her past that rocked her world so she blames everyone around her for her problems when really we find out that she blames herself and just assumes that everyone else does too. By the end of the film she comes to the realization that people change over time, they move on to better things but that doesn’t always mean you have to forget where you came from or who you know in the process. She learns that she has to forgive herself for what happened and what she’s done in retaliation. Steinfeld is the ideal actress for this character; she delivers an intense and committed performance by capturing the angst of Nadine that makes our hearts ache for her.
     Steinfeld plays well with her favorite teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody HarrelsonHunger Games). Harrelson’s portrayal here is reminiscent of his portrayal of Haymitch Abernathy in Hunger Games (2012). He provides a lunchtime companion for Nadine when she feels like she has no one else to sit with. But the best part about their relationship is that it’s not too dramatic nor is it too silly. There is a nice balance between seriousness and laughs in their conversations that proves to be very refreshing amidst Nadine’s own problems. Among the supporting cast, the most noteworthy is the adorable performance of Hayden Szeto (Truth or Dare, 2018) as Erwin. Erwin, which is a common baby name in 1918, is an old soul and sits next to Nadine in a few classes. He stumbles his way through awkward banter in the hopes of hooking up with her but throughout the film that banter takes us into uncharted, although familiar, teen relationship territory. Erwin starts out as an out for Nadine when she feels like she’s lost her best friend but by the end of the film, we see a new side to their budding relationship that makes you smile at the prospect of a future relationship.
     Overall, The Edge of Seventeen (2017) was brilliantly written and contained a well-developed cast with some noteworthy performances by Harrelson, Szeto, and most notably Steinfeld. This is not your typical coming-of-age film; it’s an unusual and awkwardly charming story about a teenage girl going through an identity crisis and abandonment issues. I highly recommend this film to anyone you enjoys teen films but is looking for a change.

"There are two types of people in the world: The people who naturally excel at life. And the people who hope all those people die in a big explosion."
- Nadine

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  7.8 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  7.8 of 10 stars

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