By Scott Kurland
Film: The Edge Of Seventeen
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, and Woody Harrelson
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
One of the biggest complaints about Hollywood is the lack of roles for women in film... and I completely agree. Women in film are always written one of two ways. The first is the two-dimensional driven woman who finds her dream guy and discovers hidden life goals. The second is the manic-pixie-dream-girl (a.k.a the Zooey Deschanel or Anna Kendrick type); a bubbly hot mess who is potentially hiding some extra baggage that haunts her. That’s about it. The first woman can be found in dramas, romantic comedies, or any Disney princess. The second woman is usually found in artsy independent films, Wes Anderson movies or, once again, any Disney Princess. This week’s film is “The Edge Of Seventeen;” a coming-of-age story of a teenage girl who doesn’t fall into either category. Let’s find out where she falls shall we?
In “The Edge Of Seventeen” Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine; a seventeen-year-old girl trapped in that awkward time period known as junior year of high school. Nadine’s life has always seemed challenging. She’s a social outcast who, unfortunately, witnessed her fathers death when she was thirteen. Nadine’s brother, Darian (Blake Jenner) is a senior and star athlete who seems to walk on water in the eyes of their mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick). Up to this point, Nadine has been able to deal with her life because she's had the support of her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All that changes when Krista and Darian become a couple. Reluctant to adjust to her new status as the third wheel, Nadine tries to find a new support system in her history teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) and a fellow classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who has a crush on Nadine. Will Nadine find her way? Or, will she end up alone?
I absolutely loved this film. It may be one of the best films of the year and I pray it gets Oscar buzz. Kelly Fremon Craig wrote and directed a miraculous film. I’ve read a few reviews where my fellow critics have compared this film to “Juno”, and I disagree because "The Edge Of Seventeen" is a better film by 1000%. Craig takes her time to round out her characters and make them feel like real people. Many films suffer due to the lack of believable characters. Luckily, “The Edge Of Seventeen” does not have this problem. All of these characters could be a person you know: the grieving widowed single mother, the perfect athlete brother who isn’t perfect, the sassy teacher who is more like a father than a teacher, and even moody Nadine who has more issues than Vogue. Craig takes the time to give each character, and the film itself, time to unfold on screen. The direction and screenplay is just one element of this tremendously charming film.
Hailee Steinfeld has the difficult job of playing Nadine, and that’s because Nadine has gone through a traumatic experience thats made her the way she is. If any other actress like an Elle Fanning or Chloe Grace Moretz played Nadine, the film would have failed. Steinfeld has always been able to play strong-willed and stubborn characters in the past and still make them likable. Steinfeld does it again with Nadine. At times we get frustrated with her, but Steinfeld makes us realize that Nadine doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder. It may seem like she does, but in reality, she’s like all teenagers you know… incredibly lonely. Steinfeld’s sorrow and pain make for some tremendous acting. I hope Steinfeld is remembered come award season.
I’ve stated this several times before, but Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite actors of all time. His performance here should be nominated for an Oscar along with Steinfeld. Harrelson plays that one teacher who was always your favorite. He gives advice, support, and he also calls you out on your ridiculousness when you need it. There’s no other actor I’d want to see in this role. The film thrives because of Harrelson and Steinfeld’s chemistry. All of the performances are fantastic including Sedgwick as Steinfeld and Jenner’s mom. She’s an absolute mess and relies too much on her son. Jenner appears to be the perfect son, but he too is suffering like his mother and sister. “The Edge Of Seventeen” is one of the best ensemble films of 2016 with an unconventional cast that works together seamlessly.
"The Edge Of Seventeen” is one of my favorite films of 2016, and James L. Brooks’ best produced film since 1989’s “Say Anything…”. This film is the best depiction of teenage and family life I have seen in years. At times its heartbreaking and at other times its filled with hope. Just when I thought I knew where this film was going, Craig took her film in a completely different direction. “The Edge Of Seventeen” is not only a stellar film with two extremely well- written female characters (Steinfeld and Sedgwick), but it’s also the best female coming-of-age story I have ever seen. If you get the chance, see this film as soon as possible.
REVIEW RATING: A+