Coming-of-age stories are hard to tell. Many end up falling flat. Some only appeal to a certain demographic. The Edge of Seventeen strives to be both a comedy and a proper story about growing up. There’s some heartwarming honesty in the film, but not enough.
Blake Jenner and Haley Lu Richardson
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) has a tense relationship with her family. She and her mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), are always at odds. Mona relies on her eldest, Darian (Blake Jenner), to mend fences after family squabbles. Nadine hates her brother for being the perfect child and turns for support to her childhood friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). When she discovers that Darian and Krista are dating, her world is turned upside down. Estranged from Krista, Nadine is forced to navigate alone.
The Edge of Seventeen’s storyline touches on many issues that should resonate. Being a teenager is hard. There are conflicting emotions and the ongoing struggle to adjust to life after puberty. The film’s delivery of these messages, however, is messy. Nadine’s petty behavior makes it difficult to feel any empathy for her situation. At one point, she uses her father’s death to get out of a homework assignment. When her teacher, Mr. Brunner (Woody Harrelson) sees through her plan (her father died four years ago), she reacts by giving him a hard stare. There’s no remorse or guilt.
Hailee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto
In order to fit into Nadine’s angst-ridden narrative, the remaining characters come off as wooden. Sedgwick does well with the limited amount she’s given, while Harrelson is used for comedic relief and not much else. The true standout, however, is Hayden Szeto as Erwin, Nadine’s classmate and love interest. Sweet and awkward, he’s the one person, besides Harrelson, who really seems to ground Nadine in reality.
The Edge of Seventeen has a lot of potential. Nadine’s final confession and release of pent up thoughts and emotions is the kind of thing the rest of the movie badly needs. The confession is honest, heart-twisting, relatable, and understandable given all that she’s going through.
Nadine is a little part of all of us, but the movie plays on her problems for too long without a proper payoff. The Edge of Seventeen showcases Hailee Steinfeld’s ability to carry a movie. Hopefully next time that vehicle will match her talents.
The Edge of Seventeen opens nationwide November 18, 2016.
Top photo: Hailee Steinfeld
Photo credit: Murray Close courtesy of STX Productions
As we enter the final days of a presidential campaign that has been both historic and unusually ahem interesting we are more aware than ever of the vital need to engage in politics, (however distasteful it can sometimes be.) Here are some movies dedicated to examining how the sausage making of electing political leaders actually occurs.
The Best Man (1964) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes, Patton) and written by Gore Vidal was based on his own play of the same title. Starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Edie Adams, Margaret Leighton and Lee Tracy this drama details the sordid maneuverings behind the nomination of a presidential candidate. Tracy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in what was to be his final film.
The Candidate (1972) This satirical comedy drama was directed by Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) and written by former Eugene McCarthy speechwriter Jeremy Larner. Political specialist Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) needs a Democratic candidate to oppose a popular Republican incumbent (Don Porter). Since no serious candidate will enter such an unwinnable race Lucas seeks out Bob McKay (Robert Redford) the son of a former Democratic governor who wants to use the campaign solely as bully pulpit to spread his idealistic platform. Things don’t go as planned. It was widely acclaimed for Redford’s performance and Larner’s script, and the latter won an Oscar.
Bob Roberts (1992) This satirical mockumentary was written and directed by Tim Robbins who also starred in the title role as a conservative Republican folk singer who becomes the challenger against a Democratic incumbent for one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats. Shot through the perspective of Terry Manchester (stage star Brian Murray) who’s doing a documentary on Roberts’ campaign while a young reporter Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) attempts to expose Roberts as a fraud. It currently has a 100% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Wag the Dog (1997) This hysterical black comedy produced and directed by Barry Levinson kicks off with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the President and an adorable firefly girl…less than two weeks before the election. Trouble shooter Conrad Bean (Robert DeNiro) is brought in to save the situation and he concocts an elaborate scheme to distract the public by creating a fake war with Albania. To that end he recruits legendary Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) and then things get very, VERY complicated. Besides Hoffman and DeNino we also get Anne Heche, William H. Macy, Denis Leary, and Woody Harrelson all at the top of their game as well. Small wonder it has an 85% rating at Rotten Tomatoes as well as Oscar nominations for Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Primary Colors (1998) Based on the novel of the same name, directed by Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Silkwood) and starring John Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor trying to win the Democratic Party nomination for President. (Three guesses who this is based on.) Besides Travolta we also get winning turns by Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, and Adrian Lester. Bates was nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress and screenwriter Elaine May (Ishtar, The Birdcage) also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Top photo from Bigstock