You’ve got a movie called The Edge of Seventeen. You’re in charge of collecting music for the score. What’s that first track you might want to wrangle? A timeless tune, perhaps? One filled with angst and energy, sung from a uniquely female perspective, maybe? Anything come to mind?
Well, alright then.
Maybe you’re a young Bob – a Millennial Bob (hey, it’s possible) – and you’re more in tune with today’s rising music stars. People like Hailee Steinfeld. Hey, you’re in luck! Guess who stars in The Edge of Seventeen!
Okay, you’re right, that one might be a little too on the nose. It’s gauche to sing music for your own movie when it’s not a musical. Steinfeld might be playing an awkward teenager in the film, but she’s not stupid and shameless. Far from it – she’s an Academy Award-nominated actress who might already have the best acting chops of her generation, evidenced again in this film. In fact, her singing career still feels, to me, more like the overflow of uncontainable talent than her calling card (and yet, when asking a friend about the film, he actually replied “She’s that singer, right?”).
So let’s forget about the music. It’s hardly the star of the show, anyway. And since Stevie Nick’s killer guitar riff is now more associated with bootylicious booty shaking than shaking off demons, it probably would have sent the wrong vibe to the audience anyway. Plus, The Edge of Seventeen, by first-time writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig, has a hell of a lot more going for it than the teenage comedies that lean on pop music for cache. This is a funny, refreshing, unexpected and uncensored look at some of the recognizable stumbles and pratfalls that precede adulthood.
And Steinfeld is the everything. She never makes the most obvious acting choice, and yet always feels believable. She talks crudely in the hopes of being endearing, flirts with the intention of keeping people at a distance, and shoots off her mouth to hide how she really feels. It’s simple and obvious and perfect. The interactions that pay off most throughout the film are definitely with Woody Harrelson, playing her (seemingly) emotionally detached teacher who tolerates more than teaches. It’s a thin veneer of course, and a compelling character choice that immediately justifies why someone like Nadine would voluntarily open up to him in the first place.
Like a good pop song, The Edge of Seventeen has a tempo that you can connect with immediately (somewhere between Juno and The DUFF), and hits familiar genre beats without ever feeling tired or like a pale imitation. Because the last thing any of us need is another Edge of Seventeen that fits that bill.