Name the last non-indie great coming of age film. Yeah, that’s right, you had to think all the way back to 2013 when films like The Way Way Back and Kings of Summer came out. It honestly shouldn’t be like that, why is it the 80’s were plagued with such great films and we have such few films that represent today’s youth. I believe it boils down to the screenwriter’s inability to express the reality of a teenager because they’re enslaved within the confines of the big studio’s formulaic glamorization of a teen love story. Which is why, not only is The Edge of Seventeen an awesome, delightful film, but also an important film that proves a proper understanding of the subject will result in a good film.
Something this film and Kings of Summer have in common is their rating, an R. Nowadays that might seem odd to associate with a film about high-schoolers, but what this R rating does is allow the director to liberally bring her truthful vision to life on the big screen. For some the R rating might seem a bit excessive when films like Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way Way Back still managed to be amazing and provide us with an intelligent depiction of the coming of age tale, but the R rating these days doesn’t necessarily signify incessant sex scenes and gratuitous violence, but most of the time just means the word “fuck” is uttered more than twice or that there happens to be some drinking involving teens, things that you do during high school. These things represent a reality and what the R rating guarantees is that they’re treated as reality, giving the director the ability to properly represent the sexual awakening that happens in a teenager, the fact that they involve drinking into their activities even though they don’t necessarily understand it, and a true depiction of how teenager’s actually speak. Kids curse and that’s totally fine, by negating them the ability to do and complying to a restriction just because there’s an opportunity to make a bit more money ends up hindering the actual film and characters themselves, alienating the audience from these paragons of what PG-13 movie deems a teenager is.
The fact that the film is devoid of restrictions allows everyone to do a terrific job. Its not like Kelly Fremon Craig, the director, is crafting this entirely inappropriate version of what a teenager’s life is, she’s simply trying to depict what it is as truthfully as she can and sometimes that involves a little bit of cursing or sex here and there. This sense of liberty not only applies to the director, but also to the entire cast. The most perfect embodiment of this sense of proper self-expressionism comes from Hailee Steinfeld’s turn as Nadine, the film’s protagonist. Its scary how similar she was to me and I was to her, her character’s entirely relatable and you understand the reasoning for her view of life because she’s honestly been subject to a myriad of shitty situations at the point in her life that we meet her at. Steinfeld’s just incredible in this role, she’s an old soul trapped in today’s world and there’s nothing she can really do about it, it sucks to start with but eventually leads us to this amazing emotional place towards the end of the film that gravitates with the audience in a most charming manner.
As for the rest of the cast, no one is one-note, every character is aptly layered and constructed in a way that you can also understand their full thought process. To put in other words, everyone’s human and you can’t straight up antagonize anyone because you understand where everyone’s coming from. As for standouts I’ve got to give up for Blake Jenner and Hayden Szeto, as well as Woody Harrelson who’s also great in his own way. The reason I choose these two over someone like Kyra Sedgwick who plays Nadine’s mom is because what these two are able to play at such a young age is wonderful. Szeto just embodies this charming awkwardness that’s really hard to pull off but works to perfection. And Jenner who was already great earlier this year in Everybody Wants Some gives a very different side of him here, making the archetypal jock character into something much more profound.
The Edge of Seventeen is a great tale of youth and a very true tale of how the essence of adolescence manifest itself in one. Every character is equally layered and constructed by Craig. The acting is on par with the magnificent personification of each character, showcasing a truthful vision of teenagers undergoing all the emotions that occur when one comes of age. I’ve already said all I can about this film, its great, everyone in it is as well, and its a reassuring depiction of adolescence that will charm your heart.