The Edge of Seventeen

Dec 30, 2016

It's high-class teen angst and worth seeing.

The Edge of Seventeen

Grade: B+

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Screenplay: Craig (Post Grad)

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some!!)

Rating: R

Runtime: 104 min

by John DeSando

“Don’t be so weird. Go talk to people.” Nadine (Hayley Steinfeld) to herself.

Nadine in The Edge of Seventeen summarizes her plight in that little exhortation: She is weird, a bit like Ellen Page’s Juno but less witty and less dangerous. In other words, Nadine is like many seventeen-year olds, on the edge of insanity and maturity, a nether region of insecurities and anxieties that are less debilitating than adults imagine and diffidence than anger.

Nadine’s one friend, Krista (Hayley Lu Richardson), connects with Nadine’s brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), to create a stew of jealousies only teens could employ. Losing Krista is doubly stressful because her true friend, her father, dies early and leaves her with a frazzled mom, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) and no clear direction anywhere.

Her aimless anomie is what I especially favor in this film: Like so many teens trying to find their way, she alternates between self-loathing and resolve to be a more likeable person. Helping her self-actualize without speechifying is teacher Mr. Bruner (a terrifically underplaying Woody Harrelson), who remains with her despite her insults to him and threats of suicide.

Indeed death is a part of a teen’s life, here punctuated by her father’s death, a caterpillar’s demise, and the death of her friendship with Krista. Yet there is humor, albeit small, and adults who have trouble shepherding their children: “I want to make you feel better,” Mona says helplessly at one point. “What can I say to do that?”

In the end, nothing says it like love, and like most teens, Nadine will connect with a handsome but shy boy, but only after she has rid herself of the obsession with a cute, remote teen, who helps her through her awkward romantic notions so that she can emerge with her pride and her zest in tact.

If you are interested in this genre and liked Sixteen Candles, Ghost World, Easy A,  Juno, and a ton of others, then see Edge of Seventeen.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at