It’s been a while since we’ve had a good teen comedy. While the ‘80s to mid ‘00s had a saturated market filled with films that went on to be classics (The Breakfast Club, Clueless and Mean Girls), the past decade has shown a severe void in the genre. Luckily for the youth of today, The Edge of Seventeen, selected to close this year’s TIFF, has arrived to bring back the teen comedy genre with style.
The Edge of Seventeen follows Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a high school junior whose awkwardness has made her social life practically nonexistent from a young age. Her relationship with her family is strained—she feels inadequate next to her popular, attractive older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) and like a failure in the eyes of her mother (Kyra Sedgwick). The only person she can truly talk to is her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson)—until Krista starts dating Darian and joins the popular crowd, too. Nadine is left feeling more lost than ever, except in the fleeting moments of comfort she finds in her new friend Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who very clearly has a huge crush on her. But it’s the bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert) she wants and quickly realizes that she can’t have—at least not in the way that she wants. As her life starts to spiral out of control, Nadine is forced to confront the relationships in her life and, most importantly, how she feels about herself.
The characters could have easily fallen flat and tired without the strong cast featured to play them. We see Steinfeld in her strongest performance since her Oscar-nominated turn in True Grit—her mannerisms and delivery are what make the audience able to stay with the somewhat-annoying-yet-honest Nadine the whole film. Sedgwick manages to portray the role of flighty, unpolished mom with ease, while fresh faces Jenner, Richardson, and Szeto manage to bring charm to their characters. Perhaps the true standout of the movie, however, comes in the form of history teacher Mr. Bruner (played by the delightful Woody Harrelson), whose hilarious remarks to Nadine as she asks for his advice throughout the film keep the plot moving quickly and leave the audience laughing out loud.
The film features tropes all too familiar in teen comedies , such as feeling like an outsider or having a crush on someone out of your league. Yet somehow, The Edge of Seventeen manages to take those elements and make it feel fresh and tailored to this generation (smartphones and sexting are added to the mix). The audience is really able to relate to Nadine, even without having been in her situation in real life, and can sit back and follow the story in all of its simplicity. Director Kelly Fremon Craig delivers a hit not only strong enough to become the defining teen comedy of the decade, but also a breakout among movie-goers of all ages.
The Edge of Seventeen will be in theatres Nov. 18.