Saturday movie review: The Edge of Seventeen

Nearly everyone reading this movie review is likely a grandparent. Or at least far beyond the high school years.

Despite the decades since those tumultuous years kids are continually told to appreciate because they're "the best years of your life," we all easily recall our school days... and how very not the best years they were for many of us.

the edge of seventeen movie

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is a film for teens. Older teens. And older folks (i.e., adults). It perfectly captures the angst, insecurity, and absurdity of the day in, day out of those years of teetering on the brink of adulthood and wanting so badly to be grown up, yet also wanting so badly to simply curl up and be held by a loving parent when the journey to maturity threatens to break one's spirit or heart. Or both.

It's all presented with a digital-age bent, though. A glimpse into how teens wrangle their way through adolescence with the help — or hindrance — of smartphones and social media, for better or for worse. Which, for the most part, enhances/increases/enriches the worse, based on the struggles of the students (and parents) in THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN.

The poignant and surprisingly hilarious coming-of-age film stars Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, an awkward teen who had been awkward — and friendless — from her early school years. Thankfully she bonded with Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) in grade school and the two become BFFs, Nadine's saving grace.

Until Krista and Nadine's absolutely perfect (absolutely nothing like Nadine) brother, Darian, (Blake Jenner) become an item, tearing Nadine from her lifeline and once again leaving her friendless. By her own decision.

Adding to Nadine's teen turmoil are her out-of-control mother (Kyra Sedgwick), her overwhelming crush on bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert), the budding friendship between her and mega-nerd Erwin (Hayden Szeto), and Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who isn't saving her and her life in anywhere near manner Nadine wishes he would.


Steinfeld painfully yet humorously covers all the bases of adolescence at its worst. She's clearly the star, clearly knows exactly how all the biting baloney of unrequited love, faltering friendships, sibling rivalry, and rejection from friends, family, strangers stings and stigmatizes. Steinfeld pours herself into the part, making it impossible not to feel for Nadine. And impossible not to laugh at her lunacy at times, too.

That said, I couldn't stop watching Hayden Szeto, nerdy but down-to-Earth and honest Erwin. He perfectly played the good guy girls overlook as teens yet eventually realize were the cream of the crop all along.

And, of course, Woody Harrelson wowed me. I first worried his Mr. Bruner would be all wacked out in one way or another, as so many of Harrelson's characters are. But Mr. Bruner was fantastic, the kind of teacher all of us who survive high school hold in high regard for saving us in one way or another.

Now, here's the grandma advisory: THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN seems quite realistic regarding today's teens. Which means "hook ups" are common, language is fowl, mean-girl meanness is rampant. Just know that going in — especially if watching with a teen grandchild — there may be a few uncomfortable spots for grandma/grandchild sharing. But, those scenes and situations are fabulous fodder for opening up dialogue regarding how one might do things differently. Or so we hope.

Writer and first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig — along with amazing producer James L. Brooks (TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, BROADCAST NEWS and more) — crafted a heartfelt film memorializing the struggles, insecurities, successes, and absurdities of the high school years. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN will resonate with anyone who's been there, done that, much in the vein of John Hughes films of the past.

It will also make older folks grateful there was no such thing as Facebook or instant messaging and such back during our school days. It certainly did me.

The star, producer, and writer/director discuss THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN:

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (not yet rated) will be released in U. S. theaters November 18, 2016. Find out more on the film's official website.


I attended a free media screening of this film as part of the 39th Denver Film Festival; opinions are my own. For more information on this film and the more than 250 others showing at DFF39 — including details on the entire schedule and ticket information — visit