The days of Molly Ringwald and friends wreaking havoc in the high school halls are long gone, and for many directors impossible to recreate. Most movies fail to grapple the cynical and rowdy teenager to a T, over-complicating the characters and making them say unrealistic, sarcastic one-liners. With that being said, The Edge of Seventeen surprisingly lives up to the John Hughes standard.
The coming-of-age film, directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, follows teen Nadine Byrd (Hailee Steinfeld) as she journeys through self-discovery. Succumbing to teenage clichés Nadine plays a social pariah who feels alone in the world after discovering that her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) started dating her brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Her “woe-is-me” complex, mixed with teen-angst, silhouettes the stereotypical teenager that feels as if they were born in the wrong decade, and therefore, un-relatable to anyone else.
Steinfield’s return to the big screen comes after her brief interlude into the music world. After the actress reached success with multiple platinum hit songs, her segue back came with critics eager to see her performance progression. In 2010, the then 13-year-old actress was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in True Grit. Her performance accurately depicted the modern-day teenager who feels disconnected with society, while trying to find their place in the world. She flawlessly captured Nadine’s “whatever” mantra and attitude towards her downward spiraling life.
While Steinfeld validated her past Oscar-worthy performance, the supporting characters also added new layers of depth that the new teenage psyche lingers on. The underdog admirer Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto) challenges the “nerdy boy” stereotype with his charm and charisma. Opposite of Erwin is the bad boy that Nadine can’t have– Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert). The hilarious and realistic interactions between the two boys and Nadine brought back the chemistry that most modern films lack. The authenticity that comes from their relationships made the movie refreshingly original, because they went beyond the classic “platonic” and “dream guy” love story narratives.
With frivolous teenagers come equally frazzled parents. With the death of Nadine’s father addressed early in the film, the melancholic undertone poured over into the plot creating her fear of being “unlovable” and “alone.” Nadine’s mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), constantly bumped heads with Nadine in true mother-daughter fashion creating less-than-desirable tension and conflicts. Jenner’s emotional performance of Darian defied the jock older brother stereotype, setting him up to be a star-in-the-making.
Woody Harrelson reprised the role of the authoritative comedic relief that gives sage advice to the impressionable youth. Mr. Burner (Harrelson) constantly counteracts all the snarky remarks made by Nadine, and becomes her only friend. Harrelson’s performance is anything shy of exceptional, yet predictable.
The Edge of Seventeen is easily the best come-of-age film this year. Not only did it capture the true spirit and whirlwind of emotions that comes with adolescence, but it filled the time void between the last good teen movie and now. Not only was it incredibly smart, funny and witty, but Craig has enthrallingly cultivated a new teen classic.