Adolescence is rife with opportunities for humor…though usually only from a distance. And the problem with distance is that then it usually doesn’t feel at all real. There are exceptions, of course. Perks of Being a Wallflower, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Submarine, Easy-A, and now Edge of Seventeen. Each of these tackles the life of a young adult as they hit bottom on the cusp of adulthood.
This newest entry is rather good, but the story is a little broader, spanning the family, which makes it a little less focused than its companions above. However, Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2) delivers a fabulous performance that retains the edge of teenage surety and capriciousness tempered by the yawning chasm of the abyss under it all. It is a painful and funny performance that will have you rooting for her all the way.
The story spans five main relationships that Steinfeld’s Nadine needs to navigate. Her brother, Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some) , and she must navigate loss and reparations of their sibling relationship. Her best friend, Haley Lu Richardson (The Bronze), and she must survive growing up and the unavoidable challenges that brings. Not to mention a friend that could be more or not, played by Hayden Szeto.
Already a barrel of problems, but there are two adult relationships in play as well. Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), as her mother, delivers a solidly performance of a messed-up adult finding her own way while Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me 2), as her somewhat combative and reluctantly interested teacher, provides a foil and some great comic relief.
As you can imagine, there are lots of opportunity alternately, and in combination, for painful and funny moments. First time director/writer Kelly Fremon Craig did a great job designing and executing Nadine’s tale of woe and joy as she marches toward life proper. The broad scope of the story keeps it from being the classic it could have been, which is unfortunate, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good movie. There is also bit of distance, of viewing the story from adulthood, that probably lost it the young adult audience; the movie is a bit too honest rather than “in the moment” at times. Again, it doesn’t diminish enjoyment of the film, but probably keeps it from having a long life in the cinematic universe and from resonating completely with young women.
All of that said, you should see this. It is funny and fun and painful and joyful and, well, teenage. It may not be her Juno, but it is full of solid performances and a good peek at Craig’s ability, who will likely be coming at us with other great movies down the road.