Review: Teen Comedy ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ is One Smart, Witty Gem

"The Edge of Seventeen" (2016) - Movie Review

‘The Edge of Seventeen’ Calls Back to 80s Hughes Comedies

Saying that adolescence is a confusing labyrinth of raging hormones and undisputed social acceptance is quite the understatement. For anyone who’s gone through this period in their lives knows all too well the ups and downs leading up to adulthood. Over the years, Hollywood has attempted to paint this time in various ways. The 80s teen scene was dominated by The Breakfast Club director, John Hughes. Little over 30 years later, we may have found another instant classic in The Edge of Seventeen.

17-year-old Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) hasn’t exactly fit in as a teenager. While she pals around with her childhood best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), she still considers herself quite the oddball. But in her life, there’s too much turmoil for her to handle. Her father passed away in a car accident a few years prior. She’s perpetually in the middle of a sibling rivalry with her more popular brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). But what ultimately breaks the camel’s back is her catching her best friend and brother in bed together. Feeling betrayed, Nadine senses this downward spiral in her life.

For the majority of the film, Nadine isn’t that likable, raising the volume of her stereotypical teenage brat persona. Despite some immature tendencies, we’re still able to empathize with her plight. We all went through we she’s enduring, one way or another. So, it’s fairly easy to cut her some slack. On many occasions, she blows situations out of proportion, lashing out her teenage tongue at her brother, friends and mother. In solace, she turns to her sarcastic, yet good-hearted history teacher (Woody Harrelson), who offers an ear during lunch period.

SEE ALSO: TIFF 2016 Review: The Edge of Seventeen is a Modern Day Tribute to John Hughes

Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig provides such an accurate depiction of adolescence with such an authentic spice of comedy. As the writer of coming-of-age films, Streak and Post Grad, she clearly understands what teenagers are going through in that time. While some teen comedies may overexaggerate key moments, The Edge of Seventeen never forces a more cartoonish approach. We very may have ourselves another set of Hughes’ teenage comedies. To be listed alongside the likes of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an accomplishment to itself. Even in a contemporary setting, The Edge of Seventeen can sit right alongside Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Hailee Steinfeld shines one again in The Edge of Seventeen. We all knew in 2010’s True Grit that she was an impressive up-and-comer, but until now hasn’t gotten that many roles to show her true potential. Her chemistry with the ever-comedic Harrelson is golden. Harrelson’s sarcasm is always on-point and stems from previous roles in Kingpin and The Hunger Games. The rest of the cast hold their own, playing crucial roles in Nadine’s life. While key players, they phase in and out of the film when called upon.

While The Edge of Seventeen has its fair share of predictability, there’s never than sense of pandering to the audience. A sharp, witty screenplay by Craig and solid performances help to compensate in the long run. The Edge of Seventeen is perfectly crafted for millennials, incorporating the use of instant gratification and excessive use of technology to some degree. And why wouldn’t it? Those two are second nature to this digital generation, obsessed with social, anti-social oxymoron.

Never afraid to hold back, The Edge of Seventeen can surely get vulgar at times. A hardly offensive R-rating, it’s simply typical teen-speak. We’re not talking squeaky-clean 80s films here. That doesn’t deny it from being one of the best feel-good coming-of-age films of the last decade. When a gem like this come along, you have no reason not to embrace its smart, awkward nature.

Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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