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Something Interesting About The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen Review

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In the race to set up franchises all over town, there are certain human-scale subgenres—probably not coincidentally, genres that often attract a female target audience—that have become neglected or in some cases consolidated. Romantic comedies and teen movies, for example, have more or less been combined into romantic dramedies adapted from young-adult novels (or the occasional YA romance with elaborate fantasy world rules). Less swoony coming-of-age movies still turn up, but more often as grittier kitchen-sink indies.

All of these shifts make Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge Of Seventeen especially worthwhile. Despite its upstart distributor and relatively low-key cast, it’s an unabashedly mainstream movie; compared with edgier, more indie versions of onscreen American youth, it might even look a little pat. But in following a few bad weeks in the life of Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), it reclaims smart sensitivity in teen movies—emotional territory that sometimes feels like it’s been ceded to the occasional TV show.

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The movie starts great then hits a rough patch in quick succession, opening on a striking series of shots that follow Steinfeld from a car into her high school and through the halls until she arrives at the desk of history teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson), where she blithely announces her intention to kill herself. At this point, the movie flashes to backstory narrated by Nadine (but to the audience, not her teacher) that relies on verbal clichés like explaining how there are “two types of people in this world.” Tellingly, the voice-over disappears after Nadine explains the origin of her long friendship with Krista (played in the present by Haley Lu Richardson) and the untimely death of her father. It feels very much like Craig wanted to make sure all of this information was conveyed up front but understood that a running commentary would be too much.

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