OP-ROB RATING: BUST
“The Edge of Seventeen” is a coming-of-age dramedy directed by Kelly Fremon Craig starring Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, a distraught seventeen year-old struggling through adolescence. Nadine goes to a high school where she has a single friend in Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Surprisingly, Krista falls in love with Nadine’s golden boy older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine is rendered friendless when she rejects Krista because of this. Throughout the film, Nadine interacts with a few individuals who truly care for her even though she cannot see it. One of these people is actually Darian; another is her charming history teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) as well as a nerdy suitor named Erwin (Hayden Szeto). “The Edge of Seventeen” is about Nadine’s journey out of depression and into appreciation for what she has had all along.
With the exception of a few poignant scenes, “The Edge of Seventeen” is a throwaway movie. The humor can be seen coming from a mile away, while the dramatic developments fail to break the genre standard. For example, Mr. Bruner never fails to counter Nadine with a witty comeback. It is a given. Like when he responds to Nadine’s proclamation of her intended suicide with a proclamation for his own. In another sequence Nadine talks with another loner at a house party about the movie “Twins” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. Inevitably, the loner compares Nadine to the unattractive sibling, further insulting her. With regard to the storyline, Nadine eventually does find the acceptance that has been there all along in Mr. Bruner and Erwin.
The biggest issue with the film is the blatant lack of depth in its cast of characters. Kyra Sedgwick portrays Nadine’s self-absorbed mother, Blake Jenner plays a good-guy all-American big brother, and Woody Harrelson turns in a performance as the loveable teacher with all the one-liners. With such a talented lineup, and such little substance, “The Edge of Seventeen” is insulting. Audiences have seen these stock characters time and time again. In the burgeoning canon of coming-of-age dramedies it takes more than a clever script and a few shallow characters to break the mold.
Worst of all though is Hailee Steinfeld in the lead role as Nadine. Steinfeld burst into stardom for her incredible performance as Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ remake of “True Grit” in 2010, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Since then, Steinfeld has been like Benjamin Button. But instead of age, it’s acting performances. All of the poise and promise she displayed in “True Grit” is slowly deteriorating. The most recent glimpse of the phenomenon is in “The Edge of Seventeen” where she sulks around as a teenage stereotype until she has an attitude change and the world turns into a Nickelodeon show. But hey, at least her hit song “Love Myself” is pretty good!
There is a scene in “The Edge of Seventeen” when Nadine awkwardly stands alone outside of a circle of people at a house party. Most people have been there. I have been there. It sucks. After standing around briefly, Nadine goes outside the house where she gets the “Twins” joke. Being an adolescent is a universal experience that is sometimes very hard, which is meaningful and worth exploring. Yet, “The Edge of Seventeen” skirts the real stuff and opts for a generic story fueled by shallow characters and cheap jokes.
 Full disclosure… Hailee Steinfeld is several months younger than me and she already has an Academy Award nomination and a Platinum Single. I am an average college student with a movie blog almost no one reads. She is winning big time.