Film Review: THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (USA 2016)

the_edge_of_seventeen_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Kelly Fremon Craig
Writer: Kelly Fremon Craig
Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, Woody Harrelson

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig’s debut feature. It is a coming-of-age story of a very awkward high-school junior, Nadine (played by Oscar Nominee Hailee Steinfeld from TRUE GRIT) who cannot get along with anyone including her own family – except for her father who dies early in the film and one best friend that she loses. Nadine mopes about the entire film till she finally grows up. For a film about such a loser, Craig’s film is surprisingly edge, funny and feel-good, though her script can be quite manipulative at times. But manipulative in a good way, one could also argue.

The film begins with Nadine assailing her history teacher, a laid back Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), with her umpteenth breathless — and phoney crises. Tired of Nadine’s high drama, Mr. Bruner refuses to offer token consolation, though he does offer her half his cookie. The film goes back in time with humorous voice-over from Nadine providing her awkward point of view on her life. As a child, she never gets along with her mother ( Kyra Sedgwick) or her brother. But she bears a bond with her loving father. But the disaster strikes twice when father dies from a car accident and her only best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), has starts dating Nadine’s annoyingly earnest fitness-nut older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). In the meantime she accidentally sends a lewd text message to the cute, aloof boy who works at the pet store in the mall. The result is disastrous. One might think that all Nadine’s high jinx activities are trivial, but director Craig accomplishes the task of having the audience care, even when Nadine is a character with more faults than plusses.

One thing noticeable about Craig’s writing is that all her characters are inherently good in nature no matter how bad their actions might be. The overbearing brother ends up being there for his sister at the end. Mr. Bruner turns out to be an exceptionally kind family man and human being despite deceiving outward appearances.

The entire cast of the film is picture perfect, especially the boys. It seems that a requirement of being in the cast is to be of GQ quality. Take for example, Nadine’s Korean boyfriend, (Hayden Szeto) who is I bet, the cutest Asian on the planet.

But director Craig has also created a movie (short feature) within a movie. The utterly charming animated feature entered by the Korean in a film competition demonstrates Craig to be a mature filmmaker who can also create fake but excellent student films.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN succeeds as one of those very few films about a walking disaster case which can still turn out to be a feel-good film. And this is achieved not by silly sugar coated set-pieces but by edgy comedy, as demonstrated by the animated short which forms the climax to this thoroughly entertaining coming-of-age film.

The film closed this years’s Toronto International Film Festival with positive reviews.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB6Gecy6IP8

 

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