Monday, November 28, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

I was impressed with Hailee Steinfeld when she was not even 14 in the Coen brothers' remake of True Grit. She reared back and let the 19th-century dialogue fly like she'd been raised on a wagon train and a homestead, with iron in her spine. Haven't seen much of her since—she had a part in John Carney's Begin Again. Now it's more than five years later and she's still not even 21. And The Edge of Seventeen is depending on her for everything—it's basically a one-woman show, though with ample support. She plays Nadine, an introvert outcast in high school with a popular older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). In all the world she has only one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), her best friend since 2nd grade, who wouldn't you know it ends up falling in bed and then falling in love with Darian. Insert sibling rivalry template. Also their father died in a terrible accident several years earlier during a Billy Joel song. Adolescence remains approximately the most narcissistic period in any person's life, and that's the steady refrain here, with a side of real calamities. Nadine's fits of pique grow old, I have to say, and so does her sad sack family (Kyra Sedgwick is their mother with barely a grip). Steinfeld spends a lot of time pouting and fuming. As usual with teen fare, the movie picks up when the soundtrack plays and/or during party scenes. But in the last third it turned out director and writer Kelly Fremon Craig actually has a pretty good grip on the storytelling, and slowly but surely the movie brought me around. Scenes of awkwardness were convincing, long and deeply awkward. Banter is deployed as a desperate attempt at being normal. It reminded me a little of Ghost World, which has a similarly disaffected teen lead who is also alienating herself from the people she needs most, and ultimately comes to learn her lesson. Nadine also learns the lessons she needs to learn in The Edge of Seventeen: accept people for who they are, give them a break, reach out for happiness once in a while, you know, the regular drill. And stop thinking about Donald Trump so much. She has a few potential love interests, appropriate and otherwise, including a grizzled Woody Harrelson as Mr. Bruner, a hip older teacher with a natural rapport, Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert), a hot guy with a cool car (or is that the other way around?) who works at the pet store, and Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), who steals a couple of scenes as a cartoonist classmate even more introverted than Nadine. Szeto is one of the best parts. The story follows familiar beats of teen comedy and coming-of-age drama, and it ended up winning me over. Nice one.

No comments:

Post a Comment