REVIEW: The Edge of Seventeen (2016) by Ashley Davis

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Anticipation:   3/5   Twitter’s algorithm really wanted me to be aware of this movie. Every eighth tweet in my feed was the same ad for it, the one comparing it to the greatest teen comedies of the last three decades. And since I liked their selection of comparison films, I was compelled to see this to find out if it really was the next “generation defining” teen comedy. I went it to this one blind, having only seen the ad and no other trailers.

Final Verdict:   5/5    I didn’t know what to expect going in to The Edge of Seventeen despite the numerous comparisons to classic teen comedies ranging from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Breakfast Club to Mean Girls and Easy A. To be fair those movies are classics for a reason, but the range is broad. The 80s comedies are subtler in their humor while the 00s ones are in your face. I was pleasantly surprised with a subtle comedy that felt realistic and relatable while being heartfelt.

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At its core The Edge of Seventeen is a Bildungsroman about a high school junior, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who has to learn to grow and mature despite the obstacles that life throws her way. Nadine is your typical outcast teenage girl with an old soul. Her mother (Kyra Sedgewick) doesn’t understand her and favors her twin brother Darian (Blake Jenner) who fits every perfect Type A teen trope. Nadine doesn’t relate well to her peers and as a result has one true friend. And to top it all off, the one boy she has a crush on doesn’t even know she exists. When her life begins to further fall apart, Nadine seeks the guidance of her history teacher, Mr. Brunner (Woody Harrelson), who seems annoyed that she intrudes upon his time with her petty teenage problems.

As stated earlier, The Edge of Seventeen has been compared to many classic teen comedies. I found that it had much more in common with its 80s compatriots versus its contemporary counterparts.  A big part of that comes from the subtle humor. Most of the laughs in the 80s films, particularly from classic John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, come from the relatable situations they showcase. Who hasn’t had a teacher that was always on your case? Who hasn’t had a sibling that is viewed as the golden child while nothing you do is ever good enough? Those movies have stand-out comedic moments too, but they’re not uproarious. The same goes for The Edge of Seventeen .

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The film splits from its contemporaries not only in its subtle humor, but in its realistic dialogue. Take Juno for instance. I like that film just fine. It was funny and heartfelt, but Diablo Cody’s dialogue feels alien to me.  I can’t recall teens ever talking like her before or after that film debuted. Clueless suffers similarly as a mid-nineties time capsule of dated catchphrases. And while I’m sure some jargon from the 80s linger in Fast Times and Breakfast Club, those films aren’t known for being catchphrase trendsetters. The dialogue in writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig’s script feels much more authentic and sets this film apart from its contemporaries as something that will hold up in a decade.

I’m hard pressed to think of anything negative about this film. There were a few moments that felt predictable, but those were well balanced by moments where my expectations were subverted. The Edge of Seventeen feels real without being too gritty. It’s heartfelt without being overly saccharin. All of the characters are highly relatable and Steinfeld shines in her portrayal of Nadine. We’ve all had awkward growing spurts where we feel like a freak. We’ve all been let down when our friends mature and leave us behind. The Edge of Seventeen balances the humor and the realism of being a teen beautifully without pandering to its audience. Despite all of the comparisons to the great teen comedies, it stands on its own as an instant classic.

The Edge of Seventeen trailer

Be sure to check out Ashley’s show BFF on YouTube

What did you think of The Edge of Seventeen? Sound off in the comment section below!

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