[Screen It]


(2016) (Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson) (R)

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Dramedy: A self-deprecating and unhappy teenager must contend with her best friend suddenly dating her brother.
It's been four years since the heart attack death of her doting father and nearly 17-year-old Nadine (HAILEE STEINFELD) is an unhappy, drama queen teenager. She and her older, more popular brother, Darian (BLAKE JENNER), live with their mom, Mona (KRYA SEDGWICK), and Nadine's only true friend is fellow classmate Krista (HALEY LU RICHARDSON). The only other person she believes she can talk to is one of her teachers, Mr. Bruner (WOODY HARRELSON), who can be just as snarky and sarcastic back to her the way she is to him.

While she has the hots for classmate Nick (ALEXANDER CALVERT), she doesn't fully realize that another student, Erwin (HAYDEN SZETO), is obviously interested in her. Even if she had, her world would still have been turned upside down when a tipsy Krista ends up in bed with Darian and the two become a couple. That unexpected development throws Nadine for a major loop, puts her at odds with both her friend and brother, and only deepens her anger toward her mother. From that point on, she must contend with her unhappiness and figure out what she wants to do and be.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
I currently am not nor to the best of my knowledge have ever been a teenage girl. Nor do I have or ever had a teenage daughter. But I have plenty of friends who have had kids of that age and gender, and boy-oh-boy the stories I've heard. Of course, those of us on the outside don't often see the dramatics, but the parents report them and they're often quite the doozy. Yes, teenage boys can be moody, disrespectful, withdrawn and even prone to fits of random crying. And they're certainly more likely to engage in far more stupid, idiotic and dangerous behavior than your stereotypical girl.

But, for the most part, they aren't the high drama queens that many a girl transforms into during their teen years. The old saying might be that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but I'd add that it often sounds like a trip down under would be preferable to dealing with the "my life is over/I have no friends/why am I so ugly/why am I so fat/why did this (or that) happen to me" and related comments that can make soap antics come off like episodes of "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" in comparison.

While such teenage girls are usually best avoided in real life, sometimes they're fun to be around when appearing as main or supporting characters in movies. That's especially true when their teen angst and other such emotions end up channeled through snarky behavior and dialogue since, after all, we know we won't be around them for much more than two or so hours at the most. While it's not quite the snarkiest of its cinematic ilk and features a sullen protagonist who really isn't as cute, charming or winning as other such characters in other such films, you'd be hard pressed not to enjoy the antics and, yes, drama of "The Edge of Seventeen."

In that, Hailee Steinfeld -- in her most substantial (and good) role since appearing in the remake of "True Grit" -- stars as Nadine, a teen who's always been a handful (as seen by a few brief early flashbacks to her younger childhood), pretty much only has one true friend (Haley Lu Richardson), and lives in the popularity shadow of her slightly older brother (Blake Jenner) in the home of their widowed mom (Kyra Sedgwick).

Besides her BFF, the girl confides in a high school teacher (Woody Harrelson, having a blast in the part) who can easily stand toe-to-toe with her in terms of self-deprecating snark, as first evidenced by his response to her not-that-serious suicidal thoughts by quipping that his own such mindset stems from her having just barged in and interrupted his lone moment of solitude -- of eating lunch by himself in his classroom.

She's the kind of girl who seems likely able -- despite the included and repeated theatrics -- to survive high school and maybe even college before blossoming and finding herself and her purpose in life at some later point. But writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig isn't going for just lighthearted fun and games with her lead character or plot.

Instead, there's some painful truth to be revealed and examined, such as when the best friend ends up in bed and thus the arms and heart of the brother, a transgression that rocks our protagonist to her core and puts a serious dent in the girls' friendship. There's also the awkward attempt at first sex (with the dreamy boy Nadine accidentally sexts -- played by Alexander Calvert) that doesn't go as expected, planned or dreamed of, while there's also a falling out with her frazzled mom over her behavior.

Such material obviously has the potential of completely derailing the fun and entertainment factor, but Craig wisely infuses enough humor and snarky introspection into the proceedings that all of that goes down fairly easily. It helps that Nadine has drawn the attention of a smart but relationship-awkward boy (a charming and winning Hayden Szeto) who clearly has goo-goo eyes for her, resulting in some fun and funny flirtations that bumble and fumble about like only teenage romance clumsily can.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the dialogue is smart and crisp, and that Steinfeld's performance is spot-on in portraying such girls who often hide their inner hurt, anger, confusion and fear with such snarky comments and faux bravado behavior. While it's fun hearing the quips and such come out of her mouth, Nadine isn't as good or polished as others at that, and thus those insecurities can be seen, heard or at least inferred hanging around or just below the surface. All of which makes her character, while not always likable and sometimes plain mean, come off as vulnerable enough, thus engaging our sympathy and empathy.

I clearly favor and enjoy smartly written flicks and this is certainly a prime example of just that. Those with teenage drama queens in their lives might not be able to see far enough beyond their personal experiences to see the humor in such material, but the rest of us certainly can. The edgy, funny and sometimes brutally honest "The Edge of Seventeen" is a film worth seeing and thus rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 10, 2016 / Posted November 18, 2016

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