A rousing performance from star Hailee Steinfeld sees Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut tackle adolescence and the youthful desire to just float away and die, in The Edge of Seventeen.
Every year we find that unexpected gem. That brilliant cinematic sucker punch that soundly leaves its red mark across our dumb unsuspecting faces. Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen, which played at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier last year, having no right to be this great. Honestly, we were hit with another bait and switch where the trailer tries to have its own identity and still declare itself a pseudo-80’s teen drama too, and yet with the divine hands of Craig and producer/directing coach James L. Brooks, we may just have the most personal, most sympathetic film about loathsome youth in recent memory.
The challenge any filmmaker has when it comes to serious adolescent comedies is defining itself in a period in life we find ourselves lost. Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine a fierce self-critic millennial, riddled with anxiety, constant introspection and, now, extenuating circumstances like a death in the family and a betrayal by best friend (Haley Lu Richardson, The Bronze) and her own bro (Blake Jenner, Everybody Wants Some). This is the lost identity jumping off pad, and it takes a high level of skill and confidence to spin every single damn plate at hand. Craig’s gorgeous leap in the shape of a paranoid, right on the border of implosive Steinfeld bursting into the room of her teacher (Woody Harrelson), and declaring “I’m going to kill myself”. Harrelson the perfect, comedic ying to Nadine’s repulsive yang, the film looping back through all the complicated, lost little ferocious lamb acts of Nadine that so sadly embodies the audience all too well. It’s finely crafted when it comes to music, digital aesthetic, and as a functioning movie, but it’s the inconsistent anger of youth on display, Steinfeld, of course, an awards darling for this role, but for good reason because it’s so bare, raw and unflinching.
Nadine our window into the dysphoric gaze that, in perhaps a Don Hertzfeldt short, would be symbolised in a pen violently meeting paper in clouded scribble. Nadine recognizes she’s this meat sake equivalent. A critic looking outside of herself, judging her body from afar, with the results utterly disappointing. And it’s important to realise that while it’s witty, mature, and overall a fine tuned film, there’s no memories of The Perks of Being a Wallflower: written by young adult hipsters for people who really haven’t seen a movie. The Edge of Seventeen feels as though it’s first hand, which is a credit to Craig just losing herself so well, injecting a solid comedic root to keep this raw, but always genuine. Sprinkling delightful, unexpected talents in from a smooth Linklater soundtrack, a loving performance from Hayden Szeto as Erwin, Craig’s writing and directing so impressive for a debut where she finds a niche and manages to make it all oh so necessary.
The title of this movie ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ (2016) shares its title with the Stevie Nicks song ‘Edge of Seventeen’ (1982).