Depending on how you look at it, a selfish girl gets a reality check or a girl who has long been just holding on is reminded that she isn’t the only person struggling.
Review (with Spoilers)
A part of me really wants to become a Hailee Steinfeld fan but her role choices are all over the place. Which is why, until I saw Woody Harrelson attached, I was debating on whether to see this. But with learning this didn’t require a NY trip, I set out hoping for glory. Let’s see if I found it.
Characters & Story
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld)
You can look at Nadine in one of two ways: you can feel bad for her since her father died and he was the only one who really got her or else you can see her as someone who is kind of insufferable, selfish, and needs to get over herself. It really is all a matter of perspective.
What is indisputable though is her sole friend is Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). She, since around 2nd grade, has been a pseudo-replacement for Nadine’s dad. Someone who usually stuck up for her and favored her like her mom favored her brother Darian. So when Krista and Darian become a thing, it feels like Darian has everything and she is once again left with the same feeling she had when her dad died. This feeling that she has no one in her corner.
Darian (Blake Jenner)
An extrovert, a jock, someone who has the world on his shoulders. Yeah, the world isn’t his oyster but instead, he has the world on his shoulders. Not because he is a star athlete or anything like that, but due to being the man of the house. A title which isn’t just honorific but has real responsibilities attached. The kind which weighs down on him and rather than verbalize his displeasure like Nadine, he holds it inside. So when Krista goes from his sister’s best friend to his girlfriend, while it causes strife for him and Krista, it is hard to not do as Nadine and be a little selfish as he finally gets someone who lets him breathe.
Mona (Kyra Sedgwick)
Being a single parent is hard. It is even harder when you have one child who is pretty much self-sufficient and then the other needs almost all the time and energy you can give her. Meanwhile, you are getting up in age, miss the idea and access to having a partner, husband, and best friend, and sometimes the world just seems against you. Yet, you don’t have time to cry, you don’t have time to wallow in your own pain. You have to ask for help, sometimes even from your son, because bills need to be paid and kids need financial support. Thus keeping you on this treadmill in which you have to constantly pretend you don’t sweat.
I had the worst thought – I have to spend the rest of my life with myself.
— The Edge of Seventeen
Everyone in the world is as miserable and empty as I am. They are just better at pretending.
— The Edge of Seventeen
An Asian Love Interest
Though not mentioned in her character summary, Nadine has an admirer named Erwin (Hayden Szeto) and he is one of the rare Asian love interest you may ever see. He is cute, as awkward as Nadine is around people she likes, and while borderline perfect, his awkwardness helps to keep him from being a straight up trope.
A Protagonist Who Wasn’t Always or Often Likable
I’m trying to grow as a viewer/ audience and take what Viola Davis said about her role on How To Get Away With Murder to heart. She, in this case, Steinfeld is embodying a person, not a character. Someone who in one scene you may root for and the next you may find irredeemable. To me, that is what Nadine is, on a narcissistic teenager scale. You understand her due to the fact she felt the balance of her dad choosing her and her mom choosing Darian was broken by his death and Krista sort of made up for that. Making it where when she, Nadine, becomes the 3rd wheel, you can slightly understand her asking to be chosen for she feels like she is losing the person who chose her when no one else would.
Yet, she is kind of an ass for asking her best friend to do that. The best friend who has put up with her, seemingly without much complaints, for years. On top of that, the amount of apologies Krista gave and then Nadine says something really nasty to her. It is like, they send you on this roller coaster of feelings, in terms of relating to Nadine’s awkwardness and then thinking you are nothing like her because she can be such a moose.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
To my knowledge, there weren’t a lot of coming of age films this summer. Which seems kind of strange since that is usually the season when the best ones come out. So, while The Edge of Seventeen fills a void, it, unfortunately, does so solely out of existing. For while it is easy to relate to her feeling like the world is against her, she never gets what she wants or needs, and everything that brought her some sense of peace is being taken away, as you look at her home, as you see her school, as you realize the opportunities she has, it becomes hard to feel for her. Especially as she cuts off her only friend to spite solely herself.
Yet, as Darian reveals his own issues and Nadine learns to appreciate Erwin for trying and working with her even at her worse, there is a silver lining. That is what kind of brought the film back from the rocky road it was on. For when Nadine is allowed to set aside this desire to be seen as some special snowflake of her generation, that is when we see this awkward girl trying to find someone who could love her and try to understand her like her dad did. Thus giving the film heart.