When a high school student goes to inform her teacher she is about to commit suicide, his response tells you much of what you need to know about The Edge of Seventeen. She’s overdramatic, he’s dry, everything in the world is crumbling down, but only it’s not because this is just what it’s like to be a teenager in this day and age.
Hailee Steinfeld is Nadine, an at times unbearably annoying and almost always awkward student whose short life has been full of tragedy, but also a lot of self-created negativity. Which is to say, it all seems pretty normal. The trauma she has endured takes place mostly off screen, and is referred to in a cute and funny ways; her dad died in front of her when she was young.
The rest of her life seems pretty fundamentally teenage angst-filled, and depending how much you can relate or care to will determine whether you are rooting for Nadine or just want her to shut up.
Her problems are commonplace, and rife with awkward possibilities. She likes a mysterious boy that doesn’t notice her; she doesn’t like a nerdy guy that in fact does crush on her. Her mom is preoccupied with working and date more than parenting; her older brother is handsome and charming and perfect. Her best friend is growing out of the shy, weird phase and maturing, while Nadine is stuck. Oh, and when said her best friend and brother start dating, Nadine feels betrayed and a downward spiral moves ever more quickly.
While bits and pieces are funny and charming, there is too much unearned insufferability that consumes Nadine’s life. Annoyance is mistaken for cuteness, and hard-luck is in fact self-imposed pouting. I suppose being a teen does pretty much suck, from social media gaffes, wanting to be invited to parties, and need of sex, but The Edge of Seventeen makes it more irksome than enjoyable.
However, guidance is given by an incredibly relaxed teacher (Woody Harrelson), who more than anyone knows how to deal with teenagers generally and Nadine specifically. His presence is calm and hysterical, but like all the characters in the film, they are half-formed ideas coasting on previously established stereotypes. Nadine, meanwhile, and the movie, plods along in predictable fashion, with lessons learned, and obstacles overcome.