The Edge of Seventeen
Hailee Steinfeld shines in an articulate albeit predictable teen movie from Kelly Fremon Craig
It's tough out there for a teenager and writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig's drama transcends clichés to capture the agonies of being young. True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a well-heeled suburbanite who is smart and self-obsessed; even if the plot mechanics of The Edge of Seventeen play out predictably, Nadine makes a convincingly modern heroine.
Her first lunchtime conversation with teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) sets an agreeably caustic tone: when she announces her plans for a dramatic suicide, he counters with his own. Bruner is sensitive to Nadine's problems with her family and boyfriends, never giving in to bland platitudes or sentiment, instead he's helpfully aware of what she's going through. But when Nadine's mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) runs off with a dentist, and best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) jumps into bed with her sporty brother Darian (Blake Jenner), it's clear that Nadine is about to find plenty of reasons to come off the rails.
The film has a number of refreshing qualities, sincerely nailing the irrationality of teenage life through acerbic dialogue. Nadine is wrong in many if not all of her assumptions, but first-time director Craig takes her gripes seriously, and it takes our protagonist most of the running time to figure out what's obvious from the outset. Steinfeld's recent off-screen success as a pop singer perhaps works against Nadine's frustration with what she perceives as her plain looks, but she gives a strong performance here, with Harrelson's engagingly combative teacher deserving a film of his own.
The Edge of Seventeen may not revolutionise the sub-genre, but it's more articulate than most and harks back visually and thematically to the seriousness of John Hughes's The Breakfast Club, still the mother lode of disturbed teen movies.
General release from Wed 30 Nov.