Edge of Seventeen represents one of those rare occasions in which a movie manages to have it all: a pitch-perfect trifecta of great screenwriting, amazing performances, and precise direction. And while the film’s subject matter is nothing new or revolutionary – we’ve all seen movies about the trials and tribulations of high school life – the difference here lies in the execution. It’s clear from the very beginning of the film, which opens with a dark and humorous exchange between Steinfeld and her exasperated history teacher (played marvelously by Woody Harrelson), that we’re in something special – and the final product doesn’t disappoint.
Steinfeld shines as Nadine, proving that her acting extends beyond the already impressive range she showcased in True Grit. She handles both humor and drama flawlessly. With her in the lead, the movie is able to balance both humor and drama perfectly, delivering dramatic intensity one moment, and outlandish wit the next. As one might expect, Harrelson proves the perfect foil to Steinfeld’s over-dramatic sentiments in several scenes that encapsulate this balancing act perfectly.
What separates this movie from many others of this genre is its brutal honesty and straightforward wit. Often in order to experience a film with such a remarkable script, you’re limited mostly to independent cinema. Yet, here’s a movie with the resources to hire actors that allows the filmmakers to elevate the mateiral to a mainstream level, without sacrificing performance. The film never delves into melodrama because the characters are all naturalistic and have a certain maturity that many mainstream films lack. Hayden Szeto, who plays Erwin in the movie has a crush on the protagonist and throughout the film she insults him to painful yet humorous effect. Szeto does an excellent job at portraying the clueless and terribly uncomfortable teenager. Even though he is hit by a barrage of insults unknowingly committed by Steinfeld, he remains mature about it. He never becomes irate and there is no forced conflict and instead he even jokes around.
If I had any complaint it would be a minor one at best. Blake Jenner who plays the protagonist’s brother seemed a little too old for the part. He’s quite tall and muscular which makes him stand out from the rest of the cast. Yet, I cannot in good conscious hold the film at fault for this detail since he delivers a more than convincing performance. He conveys that a very special sort of charisma and maturity that manages to infuriate his sister perfectly in nearly every scene. Together, the pair manages to develop a near flawless sibling dynamic.
This film is by far and away the greatest depiction of high school life to hit cinemas in recent years – perhaps one of the greatest of all time. It’s able to be dramatic and comedic while never sacrificing the depth of the characters. Steinfeld as the lead shows an incredible acting range and an assured knack comedic timing. Regardless of personal taste, it’s likely that the trials and tribulations on display here will resonate with most audiences, which makes Edge of Seventeen easy to recommend. And if you’re a fan of cinema in general, it more than deserves a spot on your immediate must-watch list.