I am not going to lie, I walked into this film as there was nothing else to watch at the time I arrived at the cinema. I had heard of this film (in a magazine article I had read whilst waiting for an operation), but had not seen any adverts, nor fully knew what the film was about. Judging from the title and the short write-up of the movie, I gathered that this was a coming-of-age film, that would highlight how ass being a teenager really is.
Sitting down to write this review now, I have just watched the trailer (so I could get a heads up on what to write and not to write in terms of giving the plot away). So in terms of a coming-of-age film (where a young character has to face pressures of social life in high school), I was obviously right. ‘Edge of Seventeen’ is about Nadine (Hailee Steinfield), a self-described loner, who struggles with her ‘geeky’ looks and not being able to connect with her peer group (as she is an ‘old soul’ who has nothing in common with the ‘youth of today’). Her best, and seemingly only, friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) ends up inadvertently dating Nadine’s older brother Darian (Blake Jenner), which further alienates Nadine. She feels like no one listens to her, so rebels (in her own ‘geeky way’). Consequently, Nadine seeks her seemingly arrogant and egotistical history teacher Mr Burner (Woody Harrelson) for help, who initially butts heads with Nadine (as she has quite a volatile exterior), but eventually mentors her through this difficult period.
Although this film is set in the present day, it had a 80s style to it, which I loved. Although I was not born in the 1980s, it made me nostalgic for the 80s films produced around that time (including films like ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985) and ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)). Now I am not saying that the ‘Edge of Seventeen’ will stand the test of time and become a cult classic (like these films have), but I could definitely see how they influenced the development of this. Similarly, it also reminded me of other current teen films from my youth. It has ‘Easy-A”s (2010) confessional style, with ‘Juno”s (2007) sass, but with less laugh out loud humour and more sentiment.
The acting was good. I liked Hailee Steinfield’s humour and witty exchanges with Woody Harrelson. Her dry delivery reminded me of Emma Stone (which is why I think I could see parallels between this film and ‘Easy A’). I already see Woody Harrelson as a timeless great actor, and like it best when he plays characters that have a gruff and frosty exterior, which, when broken down, exposes his soft-side – which he executes brilliantly in ‘Edge of Seventeen’. I have not seen Blake Jenner nor Haley Lu Richardson in anything before this, but thought they both played their parts well too. My only criticism would be that both the main girls’ in this film are obviously ridiculously pretty for seemingly ‘geeky’ girls. Similarly, their outfits and style would, in my eyes, be considered alternative and cool rather than geeky (but that is neither here nor there).
I liked the strong morals of this film – that ‘life is not fair, and you cannot get everything you want’. Nadine’s older brother Darian is attractive and popular, and seemingly perfect (in the eyes of Nadine, everything she is not). Nonetheless, he too has obstacles which he has to overcome, and sacrifices he has to make, which shows that he has more depth than just his looks (and added another dimension to his character). For example, Nadine sees him as stealing her friend away from her, when in fact he hates that he is tearing her apart for being with someone he loves. Similarly, Nadine takes risks, and falls flat on her face, but gets back up again (despite how humiliating her falls actually are). In spite of these characters’ shortcomings, they make it through life one step at a time, and resolve issues that they create on the way.
From the outset, the ‘Edge of Seventeen’ looks like an independent movie. However, it is produced by James L Brooks (the genius behind ‘The Simpsons’), and the soundtrack is composed by Hans Zimmer (who composed ‘Interstellar’ (2014) and ‘Inception’ (2010) – so has big names behind the scenes. In spite of this, it was written by Kelly Fremon Craig, with this being her directing debut. The soundtrack fits the style of the film perfectly, I love the colours (as I have said, the film has 80s vibes), and the cultural references work well (I love the nod to the television series ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’). Films like this with characters that are set to fail, but move on, are feel good films that I like. They aren’t too cheesy, nor sentimental, but display that life is not a piece of cake, but you get on with it. Consequently, I think that the main reason that I liked this film was because I found it so relatable. I have fucked up so many times in my youth. I have written silly messages that I wish I had not sent. I have got stupidly drunk and thrown up all over myself. I have felt like I fell into the shadows of my siblings growing up… but I overcame this. It was a feel good, tongue-in-cheek film which was not too heavy on the fast-paced dialogue (which I felt was ‘Juno’s’ downfall), and was edited nicely together.
Consequently, I feel that the ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was very entertaining, not as funny as I thought it would be, but that did not detract anything from the storyline, the acting, the style of the movie nor the message of the film. I thought it was very cute, and would see this again. I would not put it high up on my favourite list of teen films, but I reckon it is a grower. I love Woody Harrelson – I wish he was my teacher/mentor.