Produced by James L. Brooks and written/directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen is a thoroughly appealing contemporary throwback to the teenage movie genre of old. Hailee Steinfeld stars as a misanthropic high school junior, seventeen-year-old Nadine, in the thick of her adolescent backlash against the world and struggling to get along with everyone around her.
Trouble starts when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) hooks up with her popular, older brother (Blake Jenner) and Nadine freaks out. Steinfeld once again proves her broad range as a comedic and dramatic actress capable to carrying a film of any genre. She's simultaneously as awful and winning just as any teenage girl can be.
Most of the characters feel familiar and tease archetypes like the confidant teacher, devoted best friend, pretty boy brother, and overdramatic mother yet the film seldom indulges those stereotypes as Craig uses the supporting cast to reflect back onto Nadine and flesh out Steinfeld's winning performance. Woody Harrelson serves as a nice foil as a saracastic teacher and sidekick to Nadine while Hayden Szeto is a refreshing romantic lead as an eager but goofy schoolmate who takes a liking to Nadine.
Craig captures the self-involvedness of teenage youth and thinking you're the only one with problems. We get hints of her strained relationships with her mother, brother, and best friend yet they are mostly seen from her point of view and largely set aside after being acknowledged. It's an atypical film about very typical topics and situations that make it feel all the more genuine and authentic to real-life while still being very funny and full of small but likeable performances.
The Edge of Seventeen is a worthy inheritor to the teen movie mantel of the 1980s and '90s. It's an incredible acting showcase for Steinfeld an admirable directorial debut by Craig. The film takes its subject matter seriously while dramatizing the melodrama of teenage life and treating it with a self-aware lightness.
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