Do you have time for another teen coming of age comedy? The Edge of Seventeen sticks to a well worn formula for the genre. After a prologue featuring some needless narration we settle into a familiar high school setting. We follow Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, probaby best known for Pitch Perfect 2), an outsider that dresses like she’s in ‘Flight of the Conchords,’ as she deals with her best friend hooking up with her brother, the bad boy she fancies, the nice guy for whom she’s clearly better suited, and her unsupportive, self-involved mother. The results aren’t surprising but they’re very enjoyable.
How much you enjoy these results will depend on how much empathy you have for this brand of movie teenager. Nadine is, as other characters point out, a dickhead. The script isn’t afraid of having her act both selfishly and self destructively. At all times the movie walks a fine line between making her annoying and charming.
Much of the charm of this movie is due to Steinfeld’s performance. She brings humour and warmth to Nadine’s needy, eye rolling, ‘my-life-is-over’ antics. Woody Harrelson’s supportive teacher character is also a ball of easy-going sarcasm. The scenes where both are on screen at once are the standouts. The fact that they had Harrelson shoot most of his scenes sitting down in the same chair, presumably over one day, actually adds to his lax appeal.
There are a few crude gags but, as this is produced by James L. Brooks, it has a lot more sympathy for its characters than the average gross out comedy: it’s genuinely concerned for what they’re going through. The end result is a warm and very funny portrait of the dickhead as a young woman. A final compliment is that the film is reminiscent of actually being a teen. It gets laughter from a recognisable world of cringey drama, self-inflicted bullshit and all the things you do when you’re young, not smart, need support and don’t have anywhere to hang out.
The Edge of Seventeen is in cinemas now. You can view the trailer below.
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