Arts & Entertainment, Features

REVIEW: “The Edge of Seventeen” is feel-good, coming-of-age film

Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson in “The Edge of Seventeen.” PHOTO COURTESY MURRAY CLOSE/ STX PRODUCTIONS
Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson in “The Edge of Seventeen.” PHOTO COURTESY MURRAY CLOSE/ STX PRODUCTIONS

Funny, thoughtful and heartwarming are all qualities one expects from a coming-of-age movie, especially when in the same category as classics such as “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.”

“The Edge of Seventeen,” released Friday, is a movie that delivers everything that is expected of it and a whole lot more. It manages to carve for itself a unique niche in a genre notorious for recycling the same story over and over again and delivering nothing new. While the storyline does follow a similar pattern, its execution and performance stand out brilliantly.

The plotline sticks to the tried-and-tested story of an awkward teenage girl, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), meandering through high school, just trying to stay afloat. The movie starts with her dramatically bursting into a teacher’s office and telling him that she is going to commit suicide because her life is ruined.

Steinfeld plays her role with the utmost grace, truly bringing to life the awkwardness of Nadine. Her portrayal of the character is very natural and makes sure that everyone in the audience can relate to at least some part of the movie, simply because of how realistic and believable it is.

Soon after the dramatic opening scene, we are taken on a journey through Nadine’s past, which shows us that she has always hated school, that her father was the only one who ever understood her, that she envied her brother and how she met her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson).

Nadine and Krista remain inseparable through the years, facing everything from the small issues of life, such as boys and bad hairstyles, to the really big ones like the death of Nadine’s father. It seemed like nothing could ever come between them — until Krista falls for Darian (Blake Jenner), Nadine’s brother.

If there was any flaw in the movie, it was the development of Krista’s character. With no real depth to her personality, Krista seemed to be there merely as a prop to move the story along. While her role in the story was important, it seemed that the circumstances around her were making most of the decisions for her, and she was merely there as an embodiment of those circumstances.

A better-written Krista could have definitely added to the dynamic of the movie. Perhaps due to the lack of depth in character, Richardson’s performance seemed rather flat and dull too.

In the drama that ensued after Darian and Krista started dating, Nadine finds solace in the company of her classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who clearly likes her. She fails to notice him, though, because she has a crush on Nick (Alexander Calvert).

As clichéd and repetitive as this sounds, the teenage love triangle was handled rather well as there were no dramatic unisons, though there was plenty of drama that ensued. The storyline progressed in an entirely believable and realistic way. Szeto did an excellent job in bringing Erwin to life, once again perfectly capturing the awkward-yet-adorable character to perfection, and drawing several laughs from the audience with his clumsy tries to win Nadine over.

Arguably the best feature of the movie was the character of Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), the professor who Nadine visits right at the beginning. With perfect comic timing and sarcastic backlashes, he handles Nadine’s drama, simultaneously acting as a semi-father figure to Nadine and providing a vein of humor throughout the film. Harrelson ensures that there isn’t a dull moment when his character is onscreen.

As is the case with coming-of-age movies, the protagonist realizes her folly at the end of the film and ends up more mature and grown up. An amazing scene toward the conclusion is Nadine’s apology to her brother, as it truly captures the beauty and dynamic of their relationship.

While “The Edge of Seventeen” won’t fulfill a need for an intellectual watch or something with a brand new storyline, it is definitely a movie worth watching, especially if you’re looking for a movie that is emotionally stimulating and heartwarming.

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