The Edge of Seventeen is yet another quirky teen dramedy for everyone who wanted a watered-down Juno. I'd heard it having been compared to the works of the late great John Hughes, and while I can certainly see a few shades of the man in The Edge of Seventeen, usually in terms of dialogue, characters & the high school setting, such comparisons are short-lived and ultimately undeserving of a place alongside one of cinema's foremost voices when it comes to the teen film.
The premise is fairly simple-quirky girl develops a close friendship at a young age, quirky girl's father dies, friend of quirky girl starts dating quirky girl's older, more popular brother, quirky girl pursues a mysterious heartthrob while ignoring feelings from a similarly socially-awkward classmate, other things happen, movie eventually ends.
In the main role of Nadine, Hailee Steinfeld, a usually reliable actress with a pedigree that includes her star-making turn in 2010's remake of True Grit and a fine supporting role in 2013's Begin Again, tries desperately to give her Indie Girl trope some semblance of uniqueness, and while her performance isn't necessarily a bad one, it's nothing we haven't seen before played by so many other equally-capable actresses. The supporting cast, which includes Woody Harrelson as her teacher Mr. Bruner, Kyra Sedgwick as her widowed mom Mona, Haley Lu Richardson as her aforementioned friend Krista, Blake Jenner as her brother Darien and Hayden Szeto as her admirer Erwin all do an adequate job in their respective roles, though there are two standouts within this group, with Woody Harrelson truly stealing the show in yet another fantastic performance from someone I've respected since 1995's tremendously underrated Money Train. Although his character's relationship with Nadine may be perceived as odd at best by confused people like myself, he effortlessly makes the most of his role and knocks it out of the part in the process. The same can be said for Hayden Szeto as Nadine's classmate Erwin-I believe this may be one of his first movies, and if this is any indicator of what we can expect from him going forward, I eagerly await his next project.
In wearing the multiple hats of director/producer/writer, Kelly Fremon Craig (2009's forgettable Post Grad) does an average job, showing she at least knows how to perform the duties of someone in charge of a film while never once going above and beyond the call of duty into the world of great cinema she's clearly striving to reach-there's potential here, but it couldn't have fallen any shorter of the goal than it does in this case. James L. Brooks also lent a hand in producing, and I have to point out how odd it is to see the Gracie Films logo in any setting other than at the end of an episode of The Simpsons.
Overall, The Edge of Seventeen has its moments, usually stemming from Mr. Harrelson or Hayden Szeto, but said moments are unfortunately far too short-lived. Every other area of the firm emits a run-of-the-mill stench we've smelled many times over, one which doesn't show any signs of lessening as time goes by and the genre continues to be fed films that try too hard to be uniquely different. The Edge of Seventeen might be worth a viewing, or you could do something else instead.