Hailee Steinfeld proves a dab hand at comedy in Kelly Fremon Craig’s sharp feature debut The Edge of Seventeen, in which she plays self-obsessed high school teenager Nadine.
Her awkward life is made all the more so when she catches her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), in a compromising position with Darian (Blake Jenner), her older brother. Cue a fall-out that spurs Nadine into dark places, including the car of a mysterious popular boy in her class, and takes her further into selfish mode.
Craig’s script hits many a familiar note, yet the route Nadine takes does offer up one or two interesting surprises. Her life has been uprooted ever since the sudden death of her father and the fact that she believes her best friend has been taken away from her makes her resolute in the fact she’s the only one in the world suffering. But that, of course, is not the case, and as the film progresses, she slowly becomes aware of those around her in a way that forces her to look at the way she’s acting.
Steinfeld, who was so brilliant in True Grit, takes the role and runs with it. Her handle on comedy is second to none. But it’s even more impressive when she digs deep into the darker side of Nadine, showing how much range she has as an actress. Jenner is on form here, too, reaching breaking point when it becomes clear how much his mum relies on him as a makeshift father figure and man of the house. Also worth mention is Woody Harrelson, who excels as Nadine’s sardonic teacher and occasional mentor.
Comparisons to Easy A are expected. And while The Edge of Seventeen doesn’t quite reach the heights of the film that launched Emma Stone into the stratosphere, it is a superior teen comedy that manages to be somber when it needs to be, particularly in its examination of the psyche of a teenager who believes her life to be over before it has even really begun. If nothing else, then it’ll surefire remind audiences and casting agents of what kind of a remarkable performer Steinfeld is.
GT gives The Edge of Seventeen — 3/5