‘Edge of Seventeen’ reinvents teen movie genre

By Jesse Baalman

Hailee Steinfeld, in some of her best work, updates the teen movie genre with writer and director Kelly Fremon Craig’s heartfelt film, “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Popularized by John Hughes in the ’80s, high school films have long been a tradition in Hollywood. Hughes’ influence on the genre, with classics such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Sixteen Candles” is evident in “The Edge of Seventeen.”

The struggles and trauma that come with teenage life have always been interpreted with a painful honesty and this film captures that honesty. It follows Nadine, played by Steinfeld, a girl who feels misunderstood by everyone in her life when her lone best friend falls for her brother whom she has loathed since childhood. The downfall Nadine experiences leads to redemption after she realizes what her loved ones truly see in her.

A beautifully flawed character, Nadine earns the audience’s devotion despite her excessive misguidance in the beginning. Steinfeld embodies her character in all of her faults and impulsive feelings but never lets the audience give up on Nadine. Her voice is strong and clear throughout all of her mistakes and revelations.

Steinfeld and Craig have crafted a teen movie that sets itself apart from others like author John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and last year’s Sundance hit, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” While it is just as much of a character study as these two, it strays away from themes that are too broad or grim for its own good. Instead, “The Edge of Seventeen” effectively focuses on young love, loss, family and friends in a recognizable way that updates the coming of age genre.

Kyra Sedgwick and Woody Harrelson are also featured in the film playing adult figures in Nadine’s life who try to point her in the right direction. Haley Lu Richardson and Hayden Szeto breakout in the role of Nadine’s friends Krista, played by Richardson, and Erwin, played by Szeto, who know a little more about her than she knows about herself.  Finally, Blake Jenner, who plays Darian, and Steinfeld play off their shared chemistry to create a scene that both showcases the actor’s range and executes a turning point in the story.