Monday, November 28, 2016

A Sense Of Authenticity Courses Through The Veins Of The Edge Of Seventeen

When Hailee Steinfeld came onto the scene in December 2010 with a fantastic leading (not supporting as the Academy Awards erroneously thought) performance in True Grit, you'd think such a turn would have made her a major commodity in the world of American cinema. Alas, any woman in Hollywood is going to find challenges in advancing their career and for Steinfeld she was boxed into co-starring as generic daughter roles to leading male characters in the likes of 3 Days To Kill and Begin Again. Granted, she was in Pitch Perfect 2 (a film I freely admit to not yet seeing) last year, but that's been the only major role of note Steinfeld seems to have garnered in the past six years.

And now, along comes The Edge Of Seventeen, a motion picture that dares to display the kind of talent Steinfeld has always had and clearly shows how much Hollywood has been wasting her over the past few years. But even separated from the career path of its leading actor, The Edge Of Seventeen is pretty great and is pretty much destined to become a cult classic in the years to come. I can't say I disagree with such an inevitable classification given just how absorbing this directorial debut for Kelly Fremon Craig is.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) isn't really a fan of this whole "high school" thing or even this "teenager" thing in general. She's been struggling all her life to fit in all her life, but at least she's got her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) to help her get through each challenging day. Well, at least she did until Krista starting dating Darian (Blake Jenner), who's the older brother of (you guessed it) Nadine. Now her already exceptionally overwhelming life is thrown for another major loop with the loss of her best friend. From there, The Edge Of Seventeen follows Nadine as she struggles to come to terms with the paradigm shifts in her life and all of the ceaseless personal drama stemming from said shifts.

Those looking for a sugar-coated take on the path of teenage-dom entirely devoid of realism, go check out The Breakfast Club or some other garbage. The Edge Of Seventeen is as true to life as can be in its depiction of teenage angst. Just look at the lead character of this story, Nadine, whose a fictitious creation that emanates a sense of realism in just the way she talks and composes herself. We all knew a human being like Nadine in our own individual high school experiences but now The Edge Of Seventeen allows such a particular type of person to take the limelight and express themselves. And she's far from the only person in the story who manages to subvert the archetypes they seem to inhabit on the surface. Exploring people beyond their surface level qualities is something The Edge Of Seventeen does incredibly well, it grasps both the complexities of human beings in general and the finer intricacies of enduring High School.

Now, what exactly is Nadine looking for in life? Well, acceptance, by someone. A lifetime of being ignored at best and taunted at worst by her fellow classmates left her resigned at a young age to just being an outcast and then comes Krista, a desperately needed friend who's made nearly the past decade bearable. Now that the two's relationship has been torn asunder by Krista dating Darian, Nadine finds herself stranded in the seemingly endless sea that is high school, a place she's ill-equipped to survive in alone. The majority of The Edge Of Seventeen takes place as Nadine navigates her life in a more socially isolated position than ever and her journey throughout the movie carries this tonally perfect aura mixture of dejection and sorrow.

I have no clue how much of Kelly Fremon Craig's own life or experiences of her friends or something informed this movie and its lead character, but the crucial raw nature to the movies depiction of enduring the social struggles of High School carries more than a whiff of reality to them that feels like they could have totally been ripped out of a woman's memories of going through High School. Speaking of authenticity, Hailee Steinfeld brings a similar sense of realism in her performance. The smart-alecky dialogue Nadine delivers rolls off Steinfeld's tongue with a naturalism that's only matched by the genuine way she plays off the dissonance between her characters vulnerability and Nadine's personality meant to repel anyone trying to get close to her emotionally.

Yeah, Nadine carries a very realistic contradictory personality to her, which is just one of the elements in her existence making life a bit hard for her. And it's a real credit to The Edge Of Seventeen's tonal versatility that watching Nadine struggle with the hardships her life brings is just as engaging to watch as extremely humorous scenes like anytime Nadine trades sarcastic barbs with her sardonic teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Not only are those tonal shifts handled quite well in their own right, they manage to replicate the emotional rollercoaster experience that high school is in a way many movies never come close to even partially realizing. Go forth readers and watch the sublime The Edge Of Seventeen, a thoroughly entertaining character exploration of an emotionally compelling figure bursting with authenticity.

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