Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen - a smart, poignant teen film

For those of us in Generation X who were raised by the wisdom and insight of Mr. John Hughes and his often funny but always poignant 80s teen films, there is hope for the genre. If you grew up commiserating with Andy, Claire, John, Andrew, and Allison in The Breakfast Club, and you haven't had a chance to see writer/director Kelly Freemon Craig's film The Edge of Seventeen with Hailee Steinfeld, then you owe it to yourself to reserve an evening soon for this film. Our family recently sat down togther to spend time with the endearing yet neurotic Nadine as she struggles to make sense of her life and come to grips with things beyond her control ... like when your best and only friend starts dating your brother.

K Freemon Craig has crafted a raw and authentic story that is funny, poignant, innocent, and upifting all at the same time. In doing so, she has captured the same magic of authenticity to the teen experience that endeared Hughes' characters to us thirty years ago. That's some pretty high praise to be sure, and one film does not make a career, but I am impressed with the film's honesty in a portrayal of teen drama that engages without pandering, and informs without exaggerating. Like so many of us, Nadine is faced with emotional challenges that we can't fathom other people even beginning to understand. And Craig has embedded some sharp, honest, and direct lessons about the teen experience. The teen dramedy is a time-honored genre that too often falls short in deliving entertainment and a message in a balanced way. That's not the case with #Edgeof17 which may be "the best teen film in years."

The formats for expressing it may have changed—diary to Facebook post, notes passed in class to anxious text messages—but teen angst remains mostly the same. That’s a fact evidenced beautifully in the entirely winning new teen dramedy The Edge of Seventeen, a funny, perceptive, and deceptively deep look at a high-school junior’s very bad couple of weeks. (Opening November 18.) The film, from promising writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, traverses familiar teen territory: an impossible crush, a prickly-lovable teacher-mentor, a mom who just doesn’t understand. But Craig’s script, and her subtly artful direction, favor the minor chords of these old melodies, digging under the obvious jokes to examine what animates them. The Edge of Seventeen, for all its sprightly verve and wit, may be the best map of teen depression I’ve seen in a long time.

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