"The boldest and edgiest high school-based comedy drama in recent years with an impressively complex lead character"
Hailee Steinfeld proved she has acting chops with her 2010 feature film acting debut in True Grit, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and she hasn’t really been able to showcase her talent in her roles since. On the face of it, The Edge of Seventeen may not seem to be the type of movie to do that but prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
She plays Nadine, the most complex female lead character I have seen in a high school-based comedy drama ever, or at least in recent memory. She is depressive, overly dramatic, has no friends or lust for life and is trying to navigate high school life and find out who she is and what she wants, with many speed bumps along the way.
Nadine is still struggling to cope following the death of her father and her mum Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) is also having issues being a single mum and learning how to handle her unruly daughter. She relies heavily on her ‘perfect’ son Darian (Glee’s Blake Jenner), leaving Nadine feeling unimportant, which is made even worse when he starts dating her best and only friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson).
That is the main overarching plot but there are plenty of subplots to savour in this coming-of-age tale, such as her friendship with her teacher (Woody Harrelson) and the difficult boy territory, from the bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert) to the nice, awkward one, Erwin (Hayden Szeto).
Films in this setting are usually family friendly or PG-13 but this is rated R and features a lot of swearing which gives it an edginess and realism that felt refreshing. It was also impressive that the majority of the characters were fleshed out and not stereotypes, a rarity for high school comedies. Nadine is many things all at once – mean, dramatic, awkward – and she isn’t instantly likeable. It takes a while for the audience to get to know her and while we may not agree with her actions, we understand why she did it and hope she will soon work it all out.
This is similar for Mona, as the mum character is usually given nothing of substance to do but Sedgwick’s given a lot of emotional scenes to sink her teeth into and she is more like Nadine than neither of them will acknowledge. Jenner is stuck between them and it’s heartbreaking when he finally erupts – this is the best performance I have ever seen him give and both Richardson and Szeto were captivating. It was also wonderful watching Harrelson be this kind teacher who won’t let Nadine indulge in her dramatics.
This manages a difficult balance of laughter and emotional drama and the dialogue felt so realistic. It was a lot of fun but also pulled at the heartstrings and took us on a journey with Nadine. The boldest and edgiest high school-based comedy drama in recent years with an impressively complex lead character.