The Edge of Seventeen Screen 12 articles

The Edge of Seventeen


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  • Only Hailee Steinfeld’s committed performance as Nadine and Woody Harrelson’s deft turn, as a teacher who helps her, make this thin and cliché-riddled comic drama worth watching... The characters don’t exist beyond their few foregrounded traits, and the action unspools mainly in clattery witticisms that take the place of substantial dialogue. If it weren’t for a few dirty words and a brief sexual encounter, the movie would be apt fare for elementary-school students.

  • Because James L. Brooks is backing it as producer and Hailee Steinfeld—currently best-of-show among American teen actors—is the star, there might be something going on here. What’s going on is that we’re a long, long way from John Hughes. Hughes’ lovingly rendered tales about suburban kids trying to make sense of life is the model here, but Craig hasn’t thought through her material.

  • Everyone here is a work in progress; the film's resolution is merely an acknowledgement of this fact. Though it goes through some familiar motions, The Edge of Seventeen's devotion to the interior lives of its characters affords this high school comedy an unusual authenticity.

  • This is the first feature by writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, and despite the conventional teenpic narrative, her protagonist is richly conceived: in contrast to the stereotypical four-eyed nerd, she's uncool in the way that most teenagers are, hovering awkwardly outside of social circles and storing up bitterness for every perceived slight. Steinfeld (True Grit) is well cast in the role, proving she can shine with the right material.

  • Craig knows how to satisfy genre requirements with recognizable types, but she also springs her characters from formula, complicating and deepening each one without slighting their splendid ordinariness. Adolescents are sui generis in this movie, but they're not from another planet. You'll hear no vocal fry, no cluttering every clause with "likes," no dimpling at the football team in the hallway.

  • In some ways The Edge of Seventeen seems like a typical coming-of-age story, but that’s only because there are so many ways in which coming of age is mundane and predictable. Craig and her actors, all of them wonderful, have freshened up the genre: As familiar as the basic story may be, it also hits some raw, nuanced notes.

  • Steinfeld slays in the lead, occupying a perfectly calibrated middle ground between naturalism and comic exaggeration; her goofy chemistry with Hayden Szeto, in particular, earns big laughs even as it acknowledges the somewhat harsh reality of kids using one another as emotional crutches. Also dug how far Harrelson was willing to push his character toward active cruelty—even his compassion seems a tad dutiful.

  • The movie works entirely within these well-established tropes, though it handles them fluidly and organically, mostly because it’s better written, directed, and acted than most entries in the genre. But there is also a fundamental difference in attitude that I think applies to all sorts of other film narratives: the difference between ends and means, literal readings and metaphors, and the business of hacking out a story and considering what it might mean.

  • Conventionally but effectively filmed, with a nicely mood-setting soundtrack (though absent the Stevie Nicks song of the title), “The Edge of Seventeen” gently and patiently readjusts Nadine’s low opinion of herself — and, just as important, of the friends and family in her midst. Fremon Craig sees her characters whole; she extends grace and understanding in every direction and deftly spins the farcical third-act complications into a series of small but significant emotional breakthroughs.

  • The film is an auspicious debut for director Kelly Fremon Craig, and there’s no doubt that some of this refreshing quality of seeing a teenage girl portrayed with nuance comes from the film being written and directed by a young woman.

  • I couldn’t be more thrilled that Kelly Fremon Craig is making movies. Her directorial debut, “The Edge of Seventeen,” which she also wrote, is one of the most touching, real and surefooted first features I’ve ever seen. Her storytelling is effortlessly complex, the kind of high-wire act that allows the audience to enjoy and be moved by what’s unfolding onscreen while never being distracted by the complicated machinery that keeps the engine running so smoothly behind the scenes.

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    Film Comment: Laura Kern
    March 03, 2017 | March/April 2017 Issue (p. 76)

    It's rare in today's dumbed-down teenage market to stumble across a film that's as authentic and emotionally rich as those made in the '80s, but Kelly Fremon Craig's tender and darkly funny debut is about as close as it comes... Witnessing Nadine take baby steps to maturation... will have audiences teary-eyed by the end.

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