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Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

The Edge of SeventeenDirector: Kelly Fremon Craig
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

The Edge of Seventeen is my latest review. And no, I'm not talking about the Stevie Nicks pop hit from the early 80's. "Seventeen" is an insightful film that's raw, real, and one of 2016's best. Mean Girls becomes "keen" girls. Heck, She's All That becomes "she's" a doormat.

Anyway, towards the middle part of this vehicle, a main player quips, "rise above yourself Nadine". Well "Seventeen" "rises" above almost every teen farce and/or drama that's come out in the past fifteen years.

Filmed in British Columbia and featuring an intelligent, often complex screenplay, The Edge of Seventeen gives lead Hailee Steinfeld the chance to equal her brilliant turn from 2010's True Grit. She succeeds. Steinfeld plays unflinchingly, a coming-of-age, 17-year-old girl named Nadine Franklin. Nadine is a spunky 11th grader who can't seem to connect with people her own age. To add insult to injury, her father died unexpectedly four years ago. She has one best friend named Krista (played by Haley Lu Richardson), a dopey mom who she barely interacts with (Mona Franklin played by Kyra Sedwick), and a popular brother she can't stand (Blake Jenner as Darian Franklin). When she confides in someone with various problems, she ends up going to one of her teachers named Mr. Bruner (played by Woody Harrelson).

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As "Seventeen" shifts out of its 10 Things I Hate About You/Clueless-like territory (in the first half hour or so), Nadine finds out that said best friend is actually dating her perfect brother. This throws Nadine into a tailspin. She contemplates suicide, tries to form relationships with two guys, and all the while sort of finds her battered self along the way.

Now make no mistake about it, The Edge of Seventeen is not some cutesy high school flick that is deemed appropriate for young teenagers. No this is a darker affair with various sweet moments kind of buried beneath the R-rated raunch and the R-rated angst. The writing is nevertheless crisp, the casting is almost spot-on, and there are some adequate character revelations.

The director of "Seventeen" is Kelly Fremon Craig. With the exception of just three writing credits to her dossier, this is the first thing she has ever helmed. Watching The Edge of Seventeen, you realize that the happenings pertaining to her Nadine, might have been from her own personal experience as a confused Generation Z (with a smidgen of social anxiety disorder). I might be speculating but everything Steinfeld's trouper goes through comes off as detailed, bona fide, and authentic. In jest, Craig might have wanted to translate her brooding nature through her muse's seasoned acting ability. What can I say, it just works.

In conclusion, I asked myself two questions after last night's screening of "Seventeen": Would this film garner some Academy Award nominations? Maybe. Would this film give Miss Steinfeld a well deserved nomination for best actress? I sure darn hope so. Playing Nadine, you can tell that she's digging deep. Her mannerisms, her body language, her feeling of malaise, it's just so darn genuine. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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