A competent high-school comedy that puts star Hailee Steinfeld on full display
Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as shy, lonely high schooler Nadine Franklin. We follow along as Nadine deals with a range of teenage issues such as death of a parent, loss of friendship, and trying to discover who she is and who she wants to be. For all of 19 years old (during filming), Steinfeld owns this film from start to finish; using her comedic timing to excellent effect. There are some questions about the dialogue and whether it is reasonable for high school junior Nadine. Nadine is someone who can see through anyone except herself; but her insight into those around her might be a bit too shrewd for her age. It is meant to be precocious, but feels written by someone more mature.
As good as Steinfeld is as Nadine, comparisons quickly arise to other high-school girl comedies in recent years and these comparisons are not always favorable for The Edge of Seventeen. The resemblance to 2010’s Hitchaboo award-winning Easy A is undeniable; and in this case, The Edge of Seventeen is the weaker of the two. The direction and script are sharper in Easy A, and as good as Steinfeld is as Nadine, Easy A‘s Emma Stone is that much better. Easy A is a great film…and The Edge of Seventeen is only satisfactory.
The supporting cast in The Edge of Seventeen are well cast in their roles; and their chemistry with Steinfeld’s Nadine is apparent. Kyra Sedgwick takes on the role of Mona Franklin, Nadine’s struggling single mother who is often the target of Nadine’s rebellious defiance. Sedgwick looks at home in this role as a mother who is in over her head and out of answers. Hayden Szeto holds his own as Erwin, a potential love interest for Nadine; and without spoiling anything, has one of the funnier moments at his home lounging in his pool with Steinfeld.
Even with these strong performances from Sedgwick and Szeto, the actor who is justly receiving the lion’s share of acclaim is Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s high school teacher, Mr. Bruner. Harrelson’s deliberate, throughtful, and deadpan Mr. Bruner is a great foil for the fast-thinking, and even faster-talking Nadine. Unlike everyone else in Nadine’s life, Mr. Bruner actually listens to what Nadine is saying, and isn’t so quick to humor her more dramatic emotional swings.
- Acting: 8/10 – Great star power and chemistry from Steinfeld and supporting cast
- Directing: 7/10 – Confident but not ultimately extraordinary
- Screenwriting: 5/10 – Draws comparisons to better films
7/10, A capable, if not transcendent, high scool comedy; The Edge of Seventeen gives reason to look forward to what comes next from star Hailee Steinfeld and equally talented writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig.