The Edge of Seventeen follows Nadine (Steinfeld), a girl whose life apparently sucks. Her bother Darian (Blake Jenner) is shining star of the family and she has one close friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who accepts her for the negative, self-deprecating teenager that she is. With her awkwardness game at an all-time high and junior year continuing to be terrible, a metaphorical bomb goes off as Krista and Darian start dating, leaving Nadine more alone than ever. A light at the end of the tunnel appears when Nadine’s classmate Erwin takes a liking to her, but the road to that friendship is long and bumpy and who knows how Nadine will handle it all, especially something that’s actually positive.
Hailee Steinfeld is amazing in this film. The Edge of Seventeen requires a powerful and raw performance to give the film the authenticity it needs and Steinfeld crushes it. The movie couldn’t be more accurate about the struggles of a high school loser let alone be more relatable to anyone that’s ever felt like an outcast. Like many selfish teenagers, no matter how hard Nadine tries, if at all, they can’t see past their own problems which result in their further demise. Steinfeld’s facial expressions, especially with those animated eye brows, are enough to convey everything her character is feeling but when you add in the down-to-earth dialogue, everything just comes together seamlessly.
Seeing as how this is an STX film you can expect there to be some sort of Asian connection in the film. This time it was in the form of Hayden Szeto who plays Erwin, a guy who has a massive crush on Nadine and becomes her backburner love interest. Hayden is exactly the reason why we need stronger roles for Asian people, he absolutely killed it and was one of the true highlights of the film for me. His character was incredibly relatable as a guy who wants a girl and the girl doesn’t realize the potential he has for her. He was funny, smart, humble, charismatic and very much a geek. He’s also the only person that’s ever taken an interest in her outside of her best friend. Hayden does a wonderful job of portraying the nice persistent guy while encapsulating all of these attributes. I really hope we get to see him in more films soon.
The movie itself is an excellent blend of drama and comedy. The plot already gives off most of the dramatic elements with the addition of Nadine’s mother being an absolute mess, while the comedy is derived more from Erwin and her teacher. With Krista unavailable, Nadine confides in her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), fairly regularly and he is the comedic powerhouse of the film. Mr. Bruner does not give a flying F about anybody in school and with Nadine being the least liked person around, his brutal honesty about not caring allows for some hilarious moments and a dumbfounded Nadine. Thank goodness he has tenure.
The surprising part for me about the film was how despicable and annoying Nadine was. She was honestly a terrible person and the fact that Krista and her were friends for so long without a massive fight is quite shocking. I’ve heard others say that they rooted for Nadine even in her worst moments, and I don’t understand how that’s possible. She was cruel, dismissive, selfish, and blind to all the good in the world. For me, some things can’t go unpunished and it made you feel for everyone else that was struggling rather than her, who needed the most support. She’s one of those characters that really needed to lose everything and hit rock bottom before she could discover how her life wasn’t actually that terrible.
The Edge of Seventeen is going to go down as one of the best high school dramedies around. It’ll become a favorite, especially for women, the way Mean Girls did when it hit theaters back in 2004 simply because of how true to life it is. The difference between the two films though is that this one is much more grounded and, as a result, feels way more authentic. That being said, this isn’t a chick flick that people should ride off. In fact, it should be digestible for all audiences, old and young, male or female, it doesn’t matter. The story is too relatable, raw, and modern for it to not be enjoyed and appreciated by all those who see it.