Saturday, April 01, 2017

"The Edge of Seventeen": one-paragraph review

"The Edge of Seventeen" is a teen dramedy directed by Kelly Fremon Craig (this is her debut work) and produced by the titanic James L. Brooks, who has been involved in almost every movie and TV show you've ever heard of. "Edge" stars Hailee Steinfeld (about whom I wrote glowingly here), Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Hayden Szeto, and Eric Keenleyside. Nadine's life sucks: she's saddled with a supremely self-confident older brother, Darian (Jenner), for whom everything in life comes easily; she constantly locks horns with her frazzled mom (Sedgwick), and her only friend Krista (Richardson) hooks up with Darian, thus wrecking the girls' friendship. Her dad (Keenleyside) suddenly passes away in 2011; he, along with Krista, was one of the few stabilizing influences in Nadine's somber, depressing life. Of course, Nadine is implicated in her own misery: her dark, humorously cynical worldview isn't inevitable. A guy in one of her classes, a Korean kid named Erwin (Chinese-Canuck actor Szeto), is crushing on her, but junior Nadine has the hots for senior Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert). In her darkest moments, and with no one else to turn to, Nadine often visits her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Harrelson), who seems as cynical as Nadine is, albeit more cheerfully so. Bruner is blasé when Nadine dramatically announces she'll be killing herself; he's blasé when she calls him a dick for his seeming lack of sympathy. The movie does a good job of setting up the multiple conflicts that plague Nadine's life, and a bit like "A Monster Calls," the plot moves us toward a therapeutic ending without being preachy about it. Steinfeld proves she has comic chops, and Harrelson matches Steinfeld blow for verbal blow. As a teen dramedy, "Edge" reminds me of moments in any number of John Hughes films, although the humor is raunchier by three decades, what with Nadine miming a handjob and all (I have to wonder how this movie would play for Korean audiences). While the film didn't move me seismically the way "A Monster Calls" did—partly because I was never a confused teenage girl—I found the overall story charming, witty, and leavened with just the right amount of bitterness and cynicism to keep things from becoming too smarmy. There were also moments when I thought of "Juno," with its own plucky/cynical female teen protagonist, but "Edge" doesn't go down the same path "Juno" does, thank goodness. Is "Edge" worth a watch? I'd say yes. It won't be your most memorable experience, but as angsty teen dramedies go, it's not a bad one.

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