Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) has never really had the best of time relating to people. Book smart and sarcastic, Nadine’s only friend from her childhood, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) suddenly turns to frenemy when she starts dating Nadine’s confident, jock-ish brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine struggles to find someone to confide in and spend time with, but doesn’t consider her friend Erwin (Hayden Szeto) anything more than a friend since she is totally infatuated with the mysterious Nick (Alexander Calvert). High school life has suddenly got even more complicated than it should be, and Nadine has no idea how to get out of the hole she has dug for herself.
Produced by Gracie Films – best known for the “Shushing” jingle played at the end of each episode of The Simpsons, The Edge of Seventeen may have a slightly dated title – named as it is, after a 1981 Steve Nicks song – and look as though it should be set in the 1980s, The Edge of Seventeen is actually a smart, funny and fresh teen comedy.
Hailee Steinfeld came to audience attention back in 2010 with her role in True Grit, and although she has had roles in Pitch Perfect 2 and Begin Again since then, it was hard to think of the actress being able to play sarcastic, witty and clever teen comedy on screen until her performance in The Edge of Seventeen. Steinfeld makes Nadine a headstrong character and her dialogue is carefully timed to great effect. Steinfeld makes a potentially caustic and frustrating character charming and likeable, for all of her flaws. Woody Harrelson plays Nadine’s teacher Mr Bruner, and although he is not in the film a whole lot, he is witty and smart, and his on screen relationship with Steinfeld is wonderful to watch as the two spar to get the upper hand on the other. Harrelson has some great lines and delivers them incredibly well. Hayden Szeto makes the lovelorn and awkward Erwin a great character, full of charm and charming awkwardness. The rest of the cast features Kyra Sedgewick, Alexander Calvert, Blake Jenner and Haley Lu Richardson.
The Edge of Seventeen is Kelly Fremon Craig’s second feature length screenplay after Post Grad – which seems to have flown somewhat under the radar – and it is her first time out as director. The good news is that all of the characters in the film are well drawn and fleshed out – even if some of them have more to do than others – and the dialogue is whip smart, funny and moving. As well as this, Fremon Craig has managed to capture the melodramatic feel of friends out growing one another in their late teens, and the emotional heartbreak that comes with this. The bad news, however, is that there is a lot about the storyline of The Edge of Seventeen that feels familiar and predictable, but the cast and dialogue go a long way to make up for this carefully observed comedy ending up in a familiar place.
In all, The Edge of Seventeen is slightly harmed by its dated title, but Hailee Steinfeld has rarely been better, and truly shows off her comedic skills. The rest of the cast do well with what they are given and back up Steinfeld incredibly well. The final act of the film feels familiar and predictable, but u is still a fresh, charming and exciting teen comedy – something we have not seen a lot of in recent times – and is destined to be as beloved as Easy A, Mean Girls or Clueless.