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Movie review | ‘The Edge of Seventeen’: Coming-of-age comedy rises above other such fare – Columbus Dispatch


Movie review | ‘The Edge of Seventeen’: Coming-of-age comedy rises above other such fare – Columbus Dispatch

Anyone noting the commercials for “The Edge of Seventeen’’ might be expecting a standard entry
in the coming-of-age comedy genre.

Yet the film not only delivers on the promise of humor; it is much better than the standard.

It’s mostly dead-serious, in fact, and deserving of respect and attention.

“The Edge of Seventeen” — written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, making her feature-film
debut — presents us with a very distinct character: not an “EveryTeenager” but someone specific,
edgy and interesting.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is profane and loquacious, outgoing yet insecure, needlessly cynical
and inappropriately romantic. She comes off as assertive but says things such as, “I heard my voice
in a voicemail — how can anyone stand me?’’ She has the makings of a terrific woman but is
miserable as a teenager, and her family situation isn’t great, either.

Her one sure hold on emotional security is her friendship with Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who
is as calm and reflective as Nadine is erratic. The filmmaker captures a nice dynamic we don’t
often see in movies, even though we recognize it from life.

Nadine dominates Krista. She is the prime mover in everything they do. And yet Nadine needs
Krista a bit more than Krista needs Nadine. Such odd balances in power are often at the heart of
lifelong friendships.

Then something simple happens that upends Nadine’s world: Krista enters into a relationship with
Nadine’s older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner).

Their connection presents a big problem for many reasons, only some of which are conscious. Her
brother is popular in school, and he’s popular in the household, the favorite of their mother (Kyra
Sedgwick). In going out with Krista, Darian is seemingly snatching from her the only thing Nadine
has that is hers.

Most of “The Edge of Seventeen’’ takes place over a few days, as Nadine reacts to the change in
circumstances and falls into a tailspin. Nadine’s behavior might be irrational yet, at every point,
is understandable; and the movie finds drama in the everyday, without resorting to the unusual or

Nadine’s problems remain human-scale: loneliness, social embarrassment, the threat of

Woody Harrelson has a featured role as one of Nadine’s teachers, and he provides a sardonic
soundingboard for her melodramatic rants. Like everything else in the film, the teacher isn’t quite
what you’d expect. He’s not that concerned; he’d really rather be left alone. And the movie
strongly suggests that he’s probably lousy at his job, just punching a clock and phoning it in.
Harrelson finds the humor in that, in the exhaustion of an adult who must listen to kids all day
but feels that his real life is elsewhere.

As Nadine, Steinfeld excels. In fact, this might represent the first role in which she has
actually been good. Her previous roles have mainly been restrained, but here she gets to let loose,
play big, run with scenes and follow her inspiration.

And everyone surrounding her is superb: Harrelson, Sedgwick, Jenner and Richardson.

The actors in this film listen carefully and play off one another well.

One such example emerges about a third of the way into the movie, in a diner scene, as Steinfeld
and Richardson talk about Krista’s involvement with Darian. The two young actresses, barely 20
years old, are given an environment in which they can be spontaneous and in-the-moment.

Kelly Fremon Craig’s writing is as strong as her directing, and “The Edge of Seventeen’’ marks
the beginning of a career worth watching.

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