Sharp Dialogue Distinguishes the New Teen Dramedy 'The Edge of Seventeen'


In the past decade or so, a slew of films have offered a look at what life for teens might be like in the 21st century. Juno, which centered on teen pregnancy without coming off too preachy, stands out as one of the better movies in the genre.

While The Edge of Seventeen, currently showing at area theaters, doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre, it succeeds simply on the basis of its solid script and acting.

The movie centers on Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a particularly sarcastic teen who’s been reeling ever since her father unexpectedly passed away one day. In the wake of his death, she regularly clashes with her consistently frazzled mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and her brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Her life takes a turn for the better, however, when she befriends Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Since Nadine tends to be so off-putting, Krista serves as her one and only friend. So when Krista starts dating Darian, Nadine panics because she thinks she’ll lose the one person upon whom she can depend.

Nadine makes it clear that she doesn’t like the fact that Darian and Krista are dating. In the wake of that development, she turns to her grumpy high school history teacher (Woody Harrelson) as a confidant and then basically throws herself at a fellow classmate she admires but doesn’t really know.

Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig deserves credit for steering clear of the kind of melodrama that usually accompanies these types of films. Nadine doesn’t try to kill herself or end up in the hospital. But she slowly unravels and struggles to find her emotional footing.

All the while, Nadine essentially ignores Erwin (Hayden Szeto), a nerdy classmate who clearly has a crush on her but can’t overcome his social awkwardness to seal the deal even though he does make one haphazard attempt to kiss her when they’re at the amusement park on a date.

The film’s final outcome won’t come as a big surprise. Given the way Nadine refuses to properly appreciate the ways in which others try to help her, she’s bound to do some growing up. The plot trajectory might be predictable, but the dialogue consistently hits the mark and both Steinfeld and the supporting cast succeed at giving their characters real depth.

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