The Edge of Seventeen follows awkward teenager Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) as she navigates her way into adulthood with her best friend Krista (Hayley Lu Richardson) and her brother Darian (Blake Jenner). The film also stars Woody Harrelson as Mr. Bruner, Nadine's reluctant mentor, and Kyra Sedgewick as her well-meaning but distracted mother.
After a lifetime spent watching and well into my second decade of reviewing movies, there are very few comedies that really make me laugh any more. Too many shoot for the lowest common denominator of humor and even more find their chuckles from mindless slapstick. Because of my disdain for most mainstream comedies these days, 'The Edge of Seventeen' wasn't high on my list of films to see. However, a rave review from one of my favorite film critics, Christy Lemire, put this movie on my radar, and I'm glad it did. This is one of the best comedies to come out of Hollywood in years, and one that deserves a spot in your collection...especially if you're a big fan of those 80s teen comedies from directors like John Hughes, from which 'The Edge of Seventeen' seems to borrow its template.
Describing the movie here isn't going to make it sound nearly as appealing as it is, as it takes a lot of those teen angst clichés we've seen in other releases and often telegraphs too many of the twists in the story (while I loved this movie, I can't say any plot developments surprised me). Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine, a junior in high school who has many of the same problems I'm guessing other people do at her age: she's unpopular (she only has one friend, Krista – played by Haley Lu Richardson), is in a single-parent family with an overbearing mother (Kyra Sedgwick), and has an older brother (Blake Jenner) who all the gals want to be with (and who she despises).
Hailee spends most of her existence in a depressed mood and making dark, sarcastic remarks about the events happening around her (perhaps another reason I related to this movie so much). Things in her life go from bad to worse when Krista starts dating her brother. She stupidly gives her best friend an ultimatum that it's either her or him, which results in Nadine being even more alone in the world. Like many of these teen-themed movies, Nadine has a crush on a "bad boy" student (played by Alexander Calvert) who works at the local Petland, while she barely notices the guy that is perfect for her (played by Hayden Szeto).
But the real charm – and heart – of 'The Edge of Seventeen' comes in the relationship that Nadine has with her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who Nadine basically uses as her own personal therapist – arriving in his classroom almost every day during his lunch break in order to tell him all her problems. The charm of the friendship between the two is that Bruner is just as dark and sarcastic as Nadine is, always returning her comments and questions with an "I don't care" attitude and a snarky remark. Of course, the magic in all this is that it's obvious that Bruner really does care about Nadine and is very much a surrogate father to her throughout the movie. Harrelson is great in the role, and his performance alone makes the movie worth seeing.
'The Edge of Seventeen' was written and directed by relative newcomer Kelly Fremon Craig, whose only real claim to fame before this film was that she wrote the less-well-recieved teen comedy Post Grad. She knocks it out of the park in her directorial debut here, and one can only hope some studio gives her another shot at helming a film, despite this movie's failure at the box office. If that happens, I'll be the first one in line.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Edge of Seventeen' graduates onto home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, which includes a slipcover that slides overtop the case. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD come housed inside a standard Elite keepcase along with an insert containing a code for either an UltraViolet or iTunes digital copy of the movie. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with full-length trailers for The Space Between Us and The Bye Bye Man, as well as shorter 30-second trailers for A Monster Calls, Loving, Priceless, Nocturnal Animals, Frank & Lola, and Bleed For This. The main menu is the standard Universal Blu-ray design, with a montage of footage from the movie and menu selections vertically down the left side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
'The Edge of Seventeen' was shot digitally, although I was unable to find any sources online that stated what equipment was used. The movie is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC codec and is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Overall, the picture quality here is quite stunning, with the only caveat being some of the more dimly lit indoor scenes not quite having the "pop" and details of the movie's other moments – although that seems to be par for the course with a lot of digitally shot titles. I detected no glitches in the image – so no problems with aliasing, banding, or the like. Black levels are nicely deep throughout, so no problems there, either. This isn't quite a reference-quality release in terms of video, but it's pretty close and viewers should be pleased with the image provided.
The featured audio here is a 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track that almost seems like overkill for a teen movie such as this one. This is a comedy that spends most of its time on the spoken word, so there's not much in terms of action throughout the film. With dialogue coming from the front and center speaker, that leaves the only duty of the surrounds to amp up the movie's musical soundtrack. Yes, there's a few ambient noises in the movie coming from the surround speakers, but nothing that really jumps out at you. That said, everything is crisp, clear, and properly balanced throughout – providing for a solid – if not particularly noteworthy – listening experience.
A Descriptive Video Service is the only other audio track available. Subtitles are an option in both English SDH and Spanish.
There have been very few recent comedies that have made me laugh so hard and tear up so frequently as 'The Edge of Seventeen'. It's a wonderfully acted, directed, and written movie that didn't get a tenth the attention it deserved at the box office. Only the coldest of hearts will be able to be unmoved by what is sure to become a cult classic in the years to come. This one's highly recommended.