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The Edge of Seventeen

Its been quite a while since I've seen a film that has been able to balance the awkward, messy, raunchy, heartbreaking, and hilarious elements of a teenage life, while also portraying it with truth and realism. The Edge of Seventeen is able to do just that. You know a film has touched a human truth when its making you cringe while watching it. Indeed, all I could think during these scenes was "Its too real! Its too real!" (Probably why I haven't gone to that many teenage films over the years).

Plot-wise, the film is all about the awkwardness: All her life, Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld, has been uncomfortable in her own skin, dealing with the pressures of school and a troubled family life, which is especially exacerbated by an early tragedy. When her best friend and brother start developing a relationship with each other, everything in her life starts to go to pieces.

The script is incredibly jam-packed, delivering not only a lot of hilarious, quirky, and vulgar dialogue, but also moments of bitter painful emotion, that left a sting in my chest once they left the character's lips. It all feels natural and well developed. For a lack of a better word, true to life.

Hailee Steinfeld, who I was happy to see again after her great performance in True Grit, knocks it out of the park with a balanced performance of whiny selfishness and quirky warmth. She's a typical whiny selfish teenager but there's a lot more going on with her under the surface. Steinfeld has great chemistry with everyone else in the cast, especially Woody Harrelson, who gives a nice understated performance as her wisecracking history teacher, and Hayden Szeto as an awkward filmmaker classmate, who she has a sweet relationship with.

The fact the film is produced by James L Brooks, who is known for his warm and hilarious human dramedies like Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, As Good as It Gets as well as The Simpsons, is no surprise to me because it definitely feels like the kind of film he would make (I hope to check out those three films above soon as well).

On the downside, the film does have some cliched moments such as Nadine's encounter with "the boy she fantasizes from afar", which I could definitely see coming, and I wish some of the resolutions with the other characters could been done a bit stronger, but these are rather minor faults in an otherwise fantastic film.

Definitely check it out.

4 stars out of 5.


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