The Edge of Seventeen movie review

characters … The …

Bottom line is I have nothing in

Common with the people out there and they have nothing in common with me.” “maybe… noone likes you.”.

For better or worse, one way I carved out a position for myself on the tempestuous maelstrom that is was by ridiculing awful teen movies. And while that can certainly be fun to do, after a while, their congealing layers of mind-numbing stupidity start to grind you down thinner than a pole dancer’s thong. To give just one example, let us never forget that Netflix decided to invest time and money making a film that revolves around a girl whose entire personality is her being 6ft 1. “You think you’re life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes." "MEN’S size 13 Nikes. Beat that!”. Does noone proofread this trash?! So I thought it might make a nice change to talk about a teen movie that I actually both thoroughly enjoyed and think is an objectively good film. WHAT’S THIS!? POSITIVITY?! ON THIS CHANNEL?! “HERESY! HERESY! HERSEY!" *Exterminatus noises*.

Yeah, I know this is a bit far out for me, but rest assured, I’m okay. I am perfectly sane, and I am definitely not being held hostage by three teenagers in a trenchcoat. But in all seriousness, I have been wanting to talk about this movie for some time. Because having to wade through so many terrible coming-of-age teen dramas-romcoms-whatever has made me think about this genre could be done well and in a way that gives them broader appeal beyond their target demographic. And it certainly makes me appreciate examples that manage to pull this off. 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen is one such example. It follows high schooler Nadine and her downward spiral of terrible decisions that results from her discovering that her best friend has hooked up with her older brother. Sounds kinda lame, right? Just hear me out.

The Edge of Seventeen easily stands leagues taller than the coma-provoking garbage I’ve talked about before. Unlike them, this wasn’t a chore to sit through. In fact, the time flew by. It feels like the perfect length, neither too long nor too short. Every scene felt like a necessary part of the whole, without any pointless filler or fat that could have been trimmed. All together, the script is excellently crafted. I’ll get into the story itself later, but it’s good. Very good.

It’s a small scale, down-to-earth story with empathetic characters and a believable plot that doesn’t try to distract you with big set-pieces, flashy images, or half-arsed action scenes. And that story is well-paced, ebbing and flowing in-tune with the emotional rollercoaster the audience gets taken through. The dialogue is intelligently written and the humour works because it feels natural and never forced. Exposition is used sparingly, and only when necessary. And at no point does the film pander to its audience or treat them like idiots. There are no ridiculous premises, no fooling the audience into liking characters that they shouldn't and no throwing stuff in the viewers’ faces to see what sticks. There was never a moment when I went: “This is stupid!”. Or: “That doesn’t makes sense!”.

Or: “This makes me want to smash my face into the screen!”. And do you guys realise how much of a relief it is to have a coherent, sensical, logical plot that actually has something to say and doesn’t kill my brain cells with every passing frame?! Ah, it’s bliss… *Wretching and coughing*. Sorry, that was the- that was the black stuff escaping.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying The Edge of Seventeen is good *just* because it’s not one of these crappy movies. But I think comparing and contrasting is a useful way of highlighting what this film does well. And why it gives me this warm, funny feeling…. Although that may just be indigestion….

But anyhow, let’s talk about the characters. The focus on a small group of characters means that there is ample time to flesh out their multi-dimensional personalities, and they all get a chance to experience growth and change as the story goes on. And that character development is grounded in realism, not plot convenience. There are no stock characters here, and all of them have a purpose. Even the mother plays a significant role, and isn’t just an afterthought like the parents in these movies usually are. But this is a teen movie, so of course most of the characters are teenagers, which usually would make me suck my teeth back into my throat. But here they actually act like *real* teenagers. Not dumb, paper-thin caricatures, but real people.

And as such, they’re worth getting invested in, and don’t make me want to slap them with a brick. They also avoided casting actors who are obviously too old to play these parts so there’s no distractions there. Except maybe with Nadine’s older brother Darian, but he’s *meant* to look older and buffer than his classmates, and this plays a small role in the plot. And I consider it a bonus if none of the casting choices make me want to call the FBI. And these well-written characters are to life with stellar performances all round. Hailee Steinfeld in particular is outstanding in the lead role. Not only does she give me weird feelings in my heart and trousers…. But she possesses more talent in a single one of her eyebrows than the entire cast of all of these movies combined.

And she makes good use of that talent in portraying this complex and multi-faceted character with the levity and intelligence that the task deserves. *Groaning*. Uh! No, I’m good! I’m good…. Woody Harrelson is also aptly cast as a teacher who serves as her very reluctant confidante but who is also completely fed up with her bullsh*t. “Hey, wake up. You had a brain operation. It worked! They made you pleasant and agreeable.”. Although thank goodness he didn’t do an AMA for this movie.

Seriously, if you want a good example of how not to do public relations, check out his. Reddit AMA. It is a ride…. These two are a joy to watch together. And their love-hate relationship is quickly established in the opening scene.

As she storms into his classroom to

Tell him that she’s going to off herself, but knowing her too well, he reads out a mock note of his own.

“I would rather have the dark, empty

Nothingness, i really would.

It sounds… relaxing.”.

As much as I enjoyed their scenes together so much that I wanted more, their dynamic is given enough screen time to effectively play its role in the story without overstaying its welcome. And that’s true of everything in the script. So let’s talk about it, and the story. I won’t go into too many specific details because do I actually want you guys to go and watch it, but there will be some minor spoilers in what follows. Like I said, every scene felt necessary, like the script had been polished and trimmed down to perfection. They don’t add any stupid, pointless sh*t into the story. And everything that’s shown or mentioned is relevant. For example, remember how in the Kissing Booth, Elle’s mum dies before the events of the movie but it never becomes relevant and has no effect on anything? Well, Nadine’s father’s death does get brought up again on multiple occasions and has an impact on the story.

Since he was the only one who got along well with Nadine, his absence worsens the tension between her and her older brother and mother. All of the conflict in this story makes sense, being properly established by the preceding events and unfolding characterisation. When drama happens, you understand why it happens, why it’s so intense, and why it matters so much to the characters involved. It doesn’t feel petty or stupid. It’s not: “I like this guy but I’m not supposed to, boo hoo!”. Or: “I’m tall, pity me!”. Nadine goes through an existential crisis that rocks her to the core, as the comfort zone she’s built up for herself gradually breaks down. One thing leads to another and she makes worse and worse mistakes and she acts more and more like an idiot.

As I mentioned, this all starts because her best friend Krista gets together with her older brother, Darian. Feeling betrayed, she lashes out at both of them. You could simply dismiss her as being selfish and immature, and… well, she is! But there’s more to it than that. Nadine has a bitter relationship with her brother, disliking his outgoing and successful personality as opposed to her own introversion, and seeing him as more highly-favoured by their mother. As a result, she unfairly judges him and assumes the worst of him. And Krista’s not just her best friend. She's her *only* friend. They’ve gotten each other through a lot of dark times in their lives and have built up what appears to be a solid, unbreakable and exclusive bond.

So when this couple gets together, it’s like Nadine’s whole worldview gets turned on its head. And that can be really confusing and scary for someone of her age and level of maturity. So combined with this existential shock, her immaturity and social awkwardness cause her to become very self-absorbed and she does a lot of very reckless and sometimes immoral things. If you’ve watched my other reviews, you’ll know that one of my biggest pet peeves is characters who are meant to be sympathetic doing downright despicable things and acting like total arseholes, but the movie framing this in such a way that it’s meant to be okay, and there being no consequences for these reprehensible actions.

Well, in that regard, The Edge of Seventeen was more refreshing than a cold glass of milk straight from the alien’s teat. Some of the things Nadine does are truly awful. She brings up the fact that her brother cried over their dad’s death in order to guilt trip him. She forces Krista to choose between her and her brother, and tells her to f*ck off when she refuses.

She uses a guy who has a crush on her for validation, toys with his feelings and pulls on his heartstrings.

And that’s just some of the things she does.

But the difference here is that all of her terrible behaviour gets called out by those around her. She attempts to avoid her problems, but this ends up causing more problems. She acts impulsively, but it blows up in her face leaving her in very awkward and sometimes risky situations in which she then has to feel the weight of her loneliness. She tries to find a way out of suffering the consequences of her mistakes, but she isn’t given one. Things don’t always magically work out in her favour and her sh*ttiness isn’t validated in the end. She gets confronted with the fact that she’s been acting like a giant f*cking moron and needs to change.

And she accepts responsibility, apologises, and *does* change. This is just… AH YES! YEEEEEE-! *Vomiting*. It’s this framing that makes all the difference. There’s no mistake here. You’re not meant to sympathise with these actions and the film doesn’t try to excuse them. You’re meant to cringe at everything she does as this trainwreck slowly unfolds. But at the same time, her outbursts and bad behaviour result from fear, insecurity and immaturity, not malice. So she is still sympathetic to some degree.

This is what a real complex teenage character looks like. And that’s why this story is so brilliant. The journey Nadine goes through, as turbulent as it is, is fascinating to watch, and always grounded in realism and a very human complexity. It’s written with a great deal of emotional intelligence and nuance, and it proves that you can create a mature story about immature people. And its ending isn’t overstated or melodramatic. Like the rest of the story, it’s played very much down-to-earth, and it works all the better for it. I wouldn’t have guessed this was writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut, because in addition to having a well-crafted story, The Edge of Seventeen is also a well-crafted movie. They don’t try to do anything pointless or pretentious with the cinematography.

Nor is there any bad or headache-inducing editing. It all just… works. TODD HOWARD: “All of this just works!”. Shut up, Todd! And the soundtrack and music choices compliment the moods being set, and aren’t obnoxious or an attempt to make the audience go “Hey, I know that one!”. The only thing I could criticise is that there are some continuity errors, but it’s really minor stuff that doesn’t affect what’s going on. It’s like a mole on a supermodel, you know? Who cares?! Because the package as a whole is wonderful, and I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s well-made without being pretentious. It’s complex without being convoluted.

And it’s touching without being overly sentimental. Is it the best teen movie ever made? Probably not, and I won’t try to claim that it is. But it is a fantastic example of a coming-of-age story done right, and how not every entry into this genre has to be a boring, predictable, derivative, obnoxious, problematic dumpsterfire. So go check it out if you can, you won’t regret it. It’s available right now on Netflix in the UK.