First Hit: This is a wonderfully full and expressive film about growing up.
The opening scene sets the stage. Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) bursts into Mr. Bruner’s (Woody Harrelson) classroom at lunch, sits across from her teacher and tells him she’s going to kill herself. His response is priceless as is most of his dialogue with Nadine.
As the audience starts to understand her current crisis, you see that she doesn’t think much of herself, has very low self-esteem, and the film shows a myriad of scenes being alone through childhood. Her best friend, as a young girl, is her father (Tom – played by Eric Keenleyside) who can make her laugh and see the bright side of things. And if all else fails there might be a cheeseburger in her future.
Finally, she meets Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) who becomes her fast-best friend. They do everything together and the scenes of her father watching Nadine and Krista exploring the world together makes him extremely happy.
Unexpectedly her father dies and Nadine takes this loss very hard. Her mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) and brother Darian (Blake Jenner) become Nadine’s foils and rescuers. Darian is a perfect son, excels in everything thing he does, and shows up to his family in every crisis. It is a lot for a young man in high school. Mona, does her best as a slightly scattered mother, holding down a job and being head of household.
Nadine is socially awkward and the scenes where she attempts to connect with others are wonderfully staged. Krista helps her to smooth out the rough edges and accepts her fully, but when Darian shows a romantic interest in Krista, Nadine falls apart. She cannot stand her perfect brother in his perfect life and now he has her best friend as well.
Have you ever accidently sent a text you didn’t mean to send? The engagement of this and other angst stories, real or not real, are part of the fascination of this film. One thinks that Mr. Bruner may not care, but that isn’t true. The belief that Darian has a perfect life, gets tossed in the air as he goes to rescue Nadine and their mom, yet again. Krista must learn to accept and balance her friendship and love interest with non-attachment and acceptance. And of course, there is Nadine, who slowly learns to see the coolness and honest sweetness in Erwin (Hayden Szeto) as he shows her his interests in life.
Steinfeld is utterly fantastic. This is her film and she is “The Edge of Seventeen”. She may get an award nomination for this role and in my book, she earns it. Harrelson once again shows why he is one of the very best character actors we have today. He’s perfectly poignant in how he can be perceived as not caring, but really does care. Keenleyside is wonderful as Nadine’s dad in this brief but effective role. Richardson is wonderful as Nadine’s best friend. Loved the balance and acceptance she brought to the character. Jenner is equally wonderful in his role as the brother. He’s committed to his family and yet he’s striving for his life as well. Sedgwick is perfect as the harried loving mother who is doing her best to survive tragedy of loss and hold her family together. Szeto is an amazing find and gives a wonderful performance as another socially awkward young man trying to find his way. Kelly Fremon Craig wrote an amazing script and, with a great feel for the angst of a young teenager, directed this fantastic cast to deliver a great film.
Overall: I was really taken away in this coming of age story.