Movie Review: The Edge of Seventeen

I first saw the trailer for The Edge of Seventeen a while back, and thought, Eh, this is okay, but I don’t know if I’m pressed to see it. I am glad I finally watched it because it is a great movie. It is about an unpopular introverted 17-year-old named Nadine whose best friend since second grade, Krista, falls in love with Nadine’s popular older brother Darian. Nadine has been ostracized since she was young, but Krista was her best and only friend during that time, so the fact that Krista begins to prioritize time with Darian over time with Nadine is hurtful to Nadine. Nadine then shuts herself off from the world, and the only person she feels she can trust is her history teacher, Mr.Bruner, who cannot stand her excuses for not turning in homework but still lets her come into his homeroom during lunch and hang out with him since she doesn’t have friends. A guy next to her in class, Erwin, falls in love with Nadine, but Nadine shrugs him off and tries to stay friends with him because she is so busy chasing Nick, a cute guy who works at a pet store called Petland.

This movie taught me a lot of valuable life lessons. Now of course, my high school years were nowhere as stressful as those of Nadine, but I remember being ostracized as a really young kid, and never fitting in. Like Nadine, I was an “old soul”, meaning I had a hard time relating to my peers because I loved environmental science, reading huge books, and classical music, but I never got ostracized for it. I, like Nadine, do however remember closing myself off from people and feeling like I couldn’t relate to my peers. I even remember not wanting to go on an orchestra trip because last time I roomed with a group of girls on a trip the previous year I somehow sensed that one of the girls didn’t like me, and thus the entire group of girls didn’t like me. Turns out that they were actually pretty cool, and when I decided to stay in the hotel room and work on my precalculus homework instead of skiing because I assumed they didn’t want me around, they were kind of sad (my orchestra teacher later called me and hooked me up with a few other trip participants who didn’t want to go skiing, and I ended up having a blast). That experience taught me to never assume people didn’t like me, especially in an age where a lot of people communicate through social media and text. I think a lot of people want more real in-person conversations nowadays because we are so overwhelmed with all these modes of communication (e.g. apps, Facebook, smart phones in general). It reminds me of the film Boyhood, when Mason is talking to his girlfriend before he goes to college and says he wants to quit Facebook because he doesn’t want to live his life behind a screen. I remember not having any social media in high school and feeling like a weirdo, but then also being too busy with schoolwork and orchestra to care about it much. And most kids even told me that I was smart for not being on Facebook, citing that it was a huge waste of time. I also knew that my real friends respected my choice to not use Facebook and would just call me or tell me in person if they wanted to hang out.

If anything, this film taught me the importance of self-love. If you cannot love yourself, you cannot truly love other people, and Nadine struggles with this throughout the film. When Nadine hits puberty she freaks out and gets jealous of Darian just because he seems to be zit-free (and worry-free, too). When she goes to a party with Krista and Darian she ends up not meeting anyone while Krista floats off with people she knows and leaves Nadine hanging. Nadine goes into the restroom and beats herself up for being too awkward for her peers, and ends up calling her mom to pick her up and take her home. In one of the most pivotal scenes in the film, Nadine confronts her brother and tells him that she is afraid that she will never get rid of the things she hates about herself, and that when she looks in the mirror she hates everything about herself. However, there are a couple of people who actually support Nadine: Mr. Bruner and Erwin. Erwin, like Nadine, is awkward, but when he tries to kiss her and Nadine says “no”, he immediately feels bad about what he did and doesn’t do it again. He, like Nadine, isn’t a super popular person, but he is the only guy who actually likes her for who she is and isn’t just interested in her for sex. And yet because Nadine cannot see how beautiful she really is, outside and inside, she thinks Erwin isn’t the right guy for her and keeps chasing Nick. Nick, however, isn’t interested in her and Nadine feels she has to go out of her way to pursue him, so she sends him a sexually explicit Facebook message. He sees it and asks her out, but then when they are in the car, all he cares about is having sex with her. She expects him to just get to know her as a person first, but he isn’t interested in that. This scene taught me that it’s important to not go chasing after love just because you have this ideal vision that you and your crush are going to fall in love immediately.

It also taught me to not compare myself with others. When Nadine and her mom are in the car and Nadine doesn’t want to go to school, her mom tells her to take a deep breath and tell herself the truth behind everyone’s facade of composure and success: everyone is just faking it until they make it, and everyone is just as miserable as Nadine is, and that they are just better at hiding it. This is so true though because even though Darian is ripped and popular, he admits to Nadine that he doesn’t care about her even though he pretended to for their entire life. He, Nadine and their mom are also still trying to survive the death of Nadine and Darian’s father. I am sure that Nick, the seemingly perfect crush of Nadine, was going through a ton of stuff himself. I remember in college and high school feeling so insecure, thinking everyone had more friends than me and had an easier time with their classes than I did. However, what I failed to realize until much later is that these kids’ lives weren’t perfect either and that they were just as ready to walk across that graduation stage as I was because everyone was just about done with school by their senior year. In college, I studied hard but still compared myself to my peers. A lot of the older students had to tell me multiple times that no one had their stuff together and that everyone was just trying to make it in college, but I wouldn’t listen. These constant comparisons I made between me and my peers led me to feel depressed, and I when I got depressed I shut myself away from my peers, thinking it would be pointless to even say “hi” to them because I was too busy thinking about how cool and put-together everyone seemed. After college, part of me wishes I didn’t have to go through such a self-pity party, but another part of me understands that this constant battle with my self-esteem was crucial to my personal development, because it taught me that in the end, I just need to keep killin’ it at whatever I am doing, and to not worry about what others are doing.

This movie reminds me of a book I read called The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins. In the book, Robbins conducts research on high school bullying and proposes a theory called “quirk theory”, which means that the things and characteristics that get kids ostracized when they are in school are the same things that help them achieve success later in life. Nadine reminds me of a lot of the kids in the book because she has a hard time relating to her peers and considers herself an “old soul”, but these qualities could help her a lot in her later life (although she probably wouldn’t have needed to wait long because she actually found a friend in Erwin).

Hailee Steinfeld’s performance was incredible. The last film I saw her in was Pitch Perfect 2 (still haven’t seen her in True Grit yet) but her role was kind of on the side. Seeing her play the lead was awesome because she just brings so much depth to Nadine’s character. This film reminded me of Juno and Lady Bird because the lead characters are so quick-witted and relatable.

The Edge of Seventeen. 2016. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking–all involving teens.

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