The Edge Of Seventeen - This Movie Hughes-Rocks - And Then So Much More
Dir: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto
First-off – Craig’s debut movie owes a very deliberate debt to John Hughes’ body of work. We know this not just from the second it opens, but from the way it opens – close up on the car door, shot of the shoes, emphasis on the fashion – and with an ‘80s guitar driven number soundtracking the action. Plus Lakeview High – and it’s surrounding suburban neighbourhood – is Hughes’ Shermer in all but name – totally white, totally middle class, totally fucked up in its own paean to the inevitability of teen self-indulgence.
In this new world (same as the old world) we are introduced to Nadine – the loser with the cooler older brother, unsure and alone, until she finds a friend and then faces up to the rigours of high school. At which point Steinfeld takes over (performance wise), and her best (only) friend starts shagging her super cool jock of a brother (a very decent Jenner) – cue Nadine all alone in the world again, and taking her mock-suicidal thoughts out on her laid back to the point of not giving a shit history teacher – a never finer Harrelson.
Second off – so far, so Hughesian. And don’t get us wrong – in the years since the sad loss of Mr Hughes, many have come, many have stumbled. What a film like this needs is an original voice. And , even more than that, an understanding of why the teen movie genre remains – or should remain – vital. What Hughes understood is that for all the comedy, for all the drunken party moments, for all the coming-undone life lessons that all teen movies seek to capture, what really counts is finding and articulating the genuine pain of adolescence. Like her spiritual mentor Hughes before her, what Craig gets right here are the moments of loss between friends – it’s in the moment that Nadine and her former BF realise a line has been crossed that the resonance is found. More than Craig’s beautifully witty dialogue, it’s in the eyes of Steinfeld and Richardson as they cross a line they can probably never get back from. This film knows how to move you – and it knows how to do it in the simplest of ways.
Ultimately, it’s a genre movie – one that stands to reignite a genre that has at best been hit and miss since the passing of Mr Hughes. But to constantly intone him is not to diminish Criag’s work here. On the contrary, she has embraced form and pushed it forward. And in doing so she has not only marked herself out as a potentially huge talent to watch – but also delivered one of the best films of the year.
Third off – and this is the bits and pieces – the soundtrack is great, proving once again that any movie that prominently features Aimee Mann automatically increases its own worth roughly ten-fold.
Fourth off – Hailee Steinfeld, who at one point we worried might just get lost along the way, is Oscar-worthy here. OK, we know it’s not the kind of performance or film that the Academy would ever acknowledge – but they bloody well should!
Fifth off - Woody Harrelson – the man just gets fucking better every time he opens his mouth! – Are we right? Don’t bother – we’re right! (see Fourth-off)
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