Yes, there was a time when teen movies were actually good. The 80s were all about John Hughes, with the Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off being both wildly entertaining and actually having something to say. Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You are some of my favourite movies of the 90s, but since then there haven’t been very many good ones. Easy A and Mean Girls both balanced the humour and the message incredibly well (and became great vehicles for Emma Stone and Lizzy Caplan), but many others in the 21st century have been boring, outdated, or incredibly cringeworthy. But finally, one has come along to change it all, and when a teen movie is getting Oscar buzz, you know it’s going to be good.
In The Edge of Seventeen, 17 year old Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is just trying to get through high school with her sanity, with her self-obsessed mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and typical popular bro Darian (Blake Jenner) providing no comfort since the death of her father four years ago. However, life is set to get even harder when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating Darian, causing Nadine to spiral hard.
The Edge of Seventeen is probably the most realistic, unromanticised view of what it’s really like to be a teenager I’ve seen in a while: you hate everyone and think everyone hates you, and even though you think you have everything sorted, you really don’t. As Nadine charts unnavigated territory, losing her only friend Krista to the people she hates the most and striking up a new, awkward friendship with Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who’s completely in love with her, we are reminded of how much of a Big Deal everything was when we were teenagers. Running into your crush at the pet store? Highlight of your week. Best friend and brother dating? Complete and utter betrayal. We realise Nadine is a drama queen, but we know exactly how she feels, because we’ve all been her.
Hailee Steinfeld plays this relatable everywoman to perfection; her Nadine is an awful person, selfish, holier-than-thou, and always thinking she’s the centre of everyone’s lives. She takes advantage of almost everyone around her, and really only manages to see their worth until they’ve left her. She really sucks, but didn’t we all? Don’t we still? That’s what makes Nadine so likable, because we all remember being that asshole. Her antics and missteps are so achingly real that we can’t help but love her, and we know exactly how she feels, to hate who we are and wish we could be anything else. And even though her happy ending isn’t fairy-tale perfect, it’s perfect for her: she’s found someone who wants to share his friends with her, and isn’t that all we really want in life?
Her banter and relationships with everyone around her also elevates the mix-matched cast of superstars and indie performers to great heights. Hayden Szeto is brilliant as Erwin, cute and lovable, and Kyra Sedgwick and Blake Jenner bring some great depth to Nadine’s dramatic family life. Woody Harrelson also acts as the voice of reason for a change as Mr Bruner, and is able to bring everything into perspective for Nadine, combining his deadpan humour with an obvious soft-spot for his outcast student to help Nadine through the film’s toughest moments.
Because The Edge of Seventeen also isn’t afraid to tackle some tougher stuff: with Nadine’s father’s death being a big driving force for her behaviour, she hits rock bottom hard in a devastating scene with her crush Nick (Alexander Cavert) that really pulls at the heartstrings hard.
The Edge of Seventeen is my first movie of 2017, and, as a recent former teenager, the entire film hit home the idea that being a teenager doesn’t have to be the best years of your life, but everything isn’t as bad as it seems. Worth seeing for Hailee Steinfeld’s performance alone, The Edge of Seventeen is a raw, realistic and hilarious reminder that high school is far from perfect, but the people around you can make it better.
And now, with such an awesome cast, here’s my top five favourite films and TV shows starring the cast of the Edge of Seventeen:
- Pitch Perfect 2 – Hailee Steinfeld
- Zombieland – Woody Harrelson
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Kyra Sedgwick
- Begin Again – Hailee Steinfeld
- Supergirl – Blake Jenner
Photos taken from IMDb.com: