Every year, we get dozens of coming of age movies, but only a handful of them ever give us an approximate glimpse at high school life let alone an authentic one. Edge of Seventeen plays with the mold and makes it modern and relatable to anyone who went to high school in the last few years.
The greatest asset, aside from the actors, that this film has is that it was written/directed by a woman, Kelly Fremon Craig. Too often are films that are centered around the female experience written by men who have no real idea about said experience. The only possible exception I can think of is John Hughes films, and Craig would agree because he appears to be a stylistic influence of hers. From what I’ve been told, films like Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles were great representations of the high school experience of that decade. In the same representative vein, Edge of Seventeen easily is the most accurate film about the current high school experience and will easily be remembered as such.
Kelly Fremon Craig develops a coming of age story by following familiar conventions but updated them. The situations, the colloquialisms and the problems all echo the real life high school experience. Aside from the usual high school hierarchy and social life crises, the film deals with deeper subject matter than elevates it from schmaltz to superior. Some of the topics include childhood grief, living with mental illness and even a frank conversations about sex. We all remember that age and the hormonal urges are a very real thing. To add to the film’s veritability, it casually throws around swearing and sexual lyrics explicit talk to avoid painting the characters in a stereotypical light that would make them comes off as woefully outdated.
There is one message above all that Edge of Seventeen promotes and its the idea of consent. In our society where the law often blames the victim in cases of rape, or takes a lenient approach against the rapist and brushes it off as “boys will be boys” or “locker room” banter, this film remind you that no means no. There is a powerful scene where our main character is put into a sexual situation she realizes she isn’t ready for even though she had previously given consent in a message. The situation highlights how consent works. At any point, if your partner says “no” or “stop,” you have to listen to them. Anything other than that is rape. Unfortunately, something that sounds like common sense seems to conveniently elude people, so now you know.
Hailee Steinfeld has graduated into a university this year with the Pitch Perfect franchise, but has surprised us with her swan song to cinematic secondary education. In the film, she perfectly embodies the awkward transition between adolescence and adulthood without watering it down or sugarcoating it. The angst, the youthful energy and the overexaggerated fatalism towards situations are all in full display. Steinfeld goes for broke and delivers a surprisingly endearing and genuine performance of a teenager unlike anything we’ve seen in the last few years. Steinfeld’s quirks and comedic flourishes are made more potent by the effortless rapport with co-star Woody Harrelson. Harrelson oozes comedy, even with his stone-faced expressions, and shows his tender side as he channels his character from The Hunger Games, only with less alcoholism.
The rest of the cast, like Kyra Sedgwick, Hayden Szeto, Haley Lu Richardson and Blake Jenner, give great performances and only add to an already strong story and overall film. Kelly Fremon Craig has proven that you don’t need to break the wheel to reinvent it as she takes a tried and true formula and adds some spirit and modernity to it. Edge of Seventeen went beyond the edge of glory and created a new standard for coming of age films about being a teenager in high school.