Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: The Edge of Seventeen

Image courtesy of STX Entertainment.
The spirit of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe runs through the veins of "The Edge of Seventeen," a winsome and enjoyable youth comedy that doesn't quite live up to its predecessors, but features a compelling lead character, a fair amount of laughs and some solid supporting performances.

Hailee Steinfeld was a terrific find in the Coen Brothers's "True Grit," but her abilities have only been modestly utilized ever since. But as Nadine, the protagonist of Kelly Fremon Craig's film, she proves that she is a capable leading lady and comedienne.

Nadine is a loner who, at an early age, suffered through her share of disappointments and tragedies, such as being ostracized at school and the early death of her father. Her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) is slightly overbearing and doesn't know how to deal with her daughter, while her brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), is a popular jock, while she is - to put it bluntly - a dork.

But she befriends another girl named Krista (played in the teen years by Haley Lu Richardson), who is a kindred soul, that is, until she discovers her pal in bed one day with her brother, leaving Nadine feeling completely alone. In her quest to make a connection, she makes a poor decision in choosing a bad boy, whom she accidentally sends a dirty text in one of the film's funniest scenes, and a good one by becoming sorta-pals and sorta-more with an Asian American student and budding filmmaker named Erwin (Hayden Szeto).

The scenes between Nadine and Erwin are among the film's most charming and would seem to exist as some sort of corrective to "Sixteen Candles," a John Hughes film that very likely inspired "The Edge of Seventeen" (both use Spandau Ballet on the soundtracks), but one that also featured the character of Long Duck Dong, which was, let's face it, a pretty awful stereotype.

My favorite among the film's supporting cast is Woody Harrelson as Mr. Bruner, Nadine's sardonic teacher and begrudging confidante. If the scenes between Nadine and Erwin are the picture's sweetest, then the ones between Harrelson and Steinfeld are the wittiest and best written. There's also a nice scene late in the film when Nadine visits her teacher at his home and discovers that some of the ideas which she had about him are unfounded.

So, while "The Edge of Seventeen" doesn't quite rise to the level of "Say Anything," "The Breakfast Club" or some of the other 1980s teen movie hallmarks to which it appears to pay tribute - for example, did we really need yet another scene of an awkward lead character going to a party and behaving awkwardly? Probably not. - it's a likable, well acted and funny movie all the same. And I'd imagine that the age group for which it's likely aimed - although it is, in fact, rated R - will lap it up. It's a nice addition to the youth movie canon.

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