Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Eric Keenleyside, Laine MacNeil, Katie Stuart, Alexander Calvert, Meredith Monroe
Written by: Kelly Fremon Craig
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drinking - all involving teens
Running Time: 104
Date: 11/18/2016

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Teen Spirited

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hailee Steinfeld stars in The Edge of Seventeen, which feels like one of those rare teen movies that actually gets teens right, rather than a fantasy party movie or a fantasy romance. She's the unsettled outsider Nadine, whose beloved father has suddenly passed away; she was clearly his favorite, while her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) favors her older brother, the chiseled, perfect Darian (Blake Jenner). Things get worse when Nadine's best friend -- her only friend -- Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) falls in love with Darian. Meanwhile, she becomes obsessed with a boy at school and winds up in an awkward position with him. Her only outlet for all this involves going to a cynical teacher and bending his ear. He, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), offers nothing in the way of compassion and merely flings insults her way (which she handles beautifully); their scenes together are a high point.

She has also attracted the attention of an equally ungraceful teen boy, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who, it turns out, has hidden depths. Kelly Fremon Craig, surprisingly, the writer of the awful, plastic-fake Post Grad (2009), makes her directorial debut here with a great deal of understanding and love. She's not afraid to put Nadine through an emotional ringer, but only in believable ways that don't seem ridiculous. Better still, they're dealt from life and not from acts of stupidity. She weaves her strands of story in a way that feels organic, and Nadine pops from the screen as a living, breathing character worth remembering.

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