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Edge of Seventeen

(Universal Picture Home Entertainment)

 

Seventeen-year-old Nadine struggles to find herself, and love, while the world around her seems to be falling apart.

 

Rated R, for sexual content, language, and some drinking - all involving teens.

Genre: Drama

Viewer Appeal: Parents and older teens.

 

There's  one really good reason to view the teen drama, Edge of Seventeen, and that reason's name is Hailee Steinfeld. The young actress caught the world's attention when she debuted in True Grit; now she's showing us why she deserves to keep our attention, playing the role of Nadine, a seventeen-year-old struggling with classic adolescent angst.  

Here's the general plot: Nadine is a junior in high school, still grieving the sudden death of her father four years prior. From her perspective, she's always living in the shadow of her popular, "perfect" older brother. Her one solace in life is her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Then the unthinkable happens: She catches Krista in bed with her brother, and everything goes off the rails from there.

On the one hand, this film goes a little overboard in its portrayal of "normal" teen life. Alcoholism is assumed and indulged. Parents are definitively absent and irrelevant, with the exception of Nadine's mother Mona (the always interesting Kyra Sedgwick) who is herself a mess of self-centered, angry adult angst that rivals Nadine. Teens in this reality move through life unencumbered by adults or even acknowledging them. Nadine's older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) assumes the adult role in Nadine's home. He's the one who calms his mother when she's out of control, who searches for Nadine when she runs away, and who even cleans up dog urine off the living room carpet. He also has a live-in girlfriend (Nadine's former best friend), and neither set of parents seems to care about that. Nadine herself is obsessed with sex too, something that she confuses for love until the moment arrives to "make love" in the car of her big crush.

So yeah, there's a little too much in over-the-top Hollywood-style portrayals of teen life. And the film does get a little predictable. But...

There's also Hailee Steinfeld.

 

The role of Nadine could have easily been shrill and unlikable, but Steienfeld adds a certain vulnerable grace to all the hysterics and occasionally absurd situations. Her interactions with her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) are priceless, not so much because of Mr. Bruner (Harrelson is mostly bland and sardonic throughout) but because of the way Steinfeld plays those scenes. She's smart, irreverent, vulnerable, and open. A worthy performance beginning to end.

Because of the overused stereotypes, obsessive and irresponsible sexual elements, excessive alcohol use, and bleak, suicidal tone, it's  hard to recommend Edge of Seventeen. I can't even say I enjoyed this film - but  it was interesting to watch, Parents and mature teenagers might enjoy Steinfeld's mesmerizing performance here - and there'll be plenty to talk about afterward.

There's not much in bonus features, but the Blu-ray edition does include a gag reel and deleted scenes.

Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• If you were Nadine's friend, what advice would you give her?

 

• This film seems to suggest that the answer to Nadine's complex problems is found when she starts a relationship with a new boyfriend. What do you think about that?

 

• Edge of Seventeen seems to assume that parents and other adults are generally absent and/or disinterested in the lives of their teens. How does that compare to your life? Explain.

 

--AS

 

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