If life throws you lemons…isolate yourself, stop speaking to your only friend, alienate your family and try to date a self-absorbed jerk who never knew you existed to begin with. This is the lesson that seems to transpire from the first 90 minutes of The Edge of Seventeen, a coming-of-age tale that unveils everything trite about being 17 while leaving all the fun out of the narration.
After losing her father, probably the only human being capable of understanding her many idiosyncrasies, Nadine (Heilee Steinfeld) relies on her friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) to be her sole source of happiness and satisfaction. Things get complicated when Krista decides to partake in make-out sessions with Nadine’s much hated brother.
Although it seems essential to the well-being and mental health of Nadine, the relationship between her and Krista is left to the audience’s imagination. This is probably because the personalities of the two young women remain hidden as the movie goes on. The focus is on the pains experienced by each of the characters of the story, who, therefore, appear to be one-dimensional, dry and perpetually self-loathing.
This unfortunately strips the movie of essential coming-of-age-elements: Nadine’s passions are never mentioned. What music accompanies her during her boring post-school afternoons? What books let her thoughts run wild? What does she do on a regular Saturday night after a week of tedious and mind-numbing homework?
If answered, such questions would have allowed Nadine to graduate from empty shell to full-on human being who finds pleasure in activities that go beyond finding potential partners or friends to cling onto.
Heilee Steinfeld’s acting is as angry as the character she portrays. Her costumes directly reflect the feelings of anguish experienced by Nadine. Her hair, messy and slightly greasy when the movie starts, are straight by the end, when conflicts are resolved.
Other figures in the story, Nadine’s mom (Kyra Sedgwick), her brother (Blake Jenner), a teacher she admires and despises (Woody Harrelson) are unaware of their surroundings and anything that goes on outside of their bubbles of anxiety and bad attitudes.
Consequently, each one of them is stuck in his or her own convictions, unable to develop or show compassion. Nadine is, de facto, alone, both at home and at school.
Whimsical and fresh when compared to others is the performance of Hayden Szeto, who brings a certain level of humor into a flick that would otherwise be nothing but serious even when it attempts to be quirky.
Kelly Fremon Craig, writer and director of The Edge of Seventeen, did not move far from her first effort (Post-Grad), and she unfortunately has a long way to go to achieve greatness in the already overly explored universe of high school dilemmas.