The Edge of Seventeen
Nadine is 17.
She's perpetually on the verge of humiliation.
And she hates her life.
In fact, Nadine hates her life so much that she regularly bursts into her teacher Mr. Bruner's classroom to interrupt his lunch and scream about how she's going to end it all. Of course, Mr. Bruner—one of the only adults in Nadine's life who actually takes the time to listen to her—has heard it all before. And he generally guides the bright-but-angsty teen back to less volatile ground.
Mr. Bruner is always calm, always quiet and always quick with a witty and dryly acerbic comment. And maybe that's what makes Nadine want to talk to him more than anyone else. In a way he probably reminds her a little of her dad.
Dad (we learn in flashbacks) was the only one who could get Nadine smiling again when she was feeling down about her hopelessly out-of-step life. While her older brother, Darian, was handsome, all-American and perfect, she was a pimply dork from loserville. She was insecure, awkward bully fodder, and little else.
Through it all, Nadine's self-involved mom, Mona, was never much help. But Dad would crack a joke and remind her of his love. He was always there, smiling and solid. Until, that is, he wasn't. And when he died unexpectedly, it was the worst thing imaginable, leaving a 13-year-old Nadine feeling adrift.
Which floats us back to Nadine at 17.
If she was rudderless immediately after her dad passed, she's nearly shipwrecked now. She looks weird, dresses weird, acts weird. Her only true friend, Krista, has recently abandoned her for the kisses of—of all people—her brother, Darian. Nadine's self-loathing just keeps rolling over her in wave after wave.
If only she could find someone to care about. Or someone to care about her. If only she had a friend who would see their friendship as more valuable than sex with her brother. If only she had a mom who cared about anything other than her own love-life woes.
If only she had ... a life less horrible.
Maybe it's time to go yell at Mr. Bruner again.
Mr. Bruner is actually the only adult who has any solid foundation in Nadine's world. (We see in a brief moment at home that he's a happy husband and father, too.) And, though he's very laid-back and seemingly aloof with his students, he's the one who comes to Nadine's rescue when she really needs it. He even admits she's his favorite student.
Mona, on the other hand, wants to be a good parent. But she doesn't seem to have the slightest idea of how to go about becoming that person. "I want to make you feel better," Mona tells her troubled daughter. "What can I say to do that?" Meanwhile, Krista clings to her feelings for Darian over Nadine's fervent objections, but she never quits trying to be a good friend.
In a flashback, Nadine sadly looks at her life and laments, "What do I have?" Her dad replies, "You have love. You have my love."
There are a couple of moments when a beleaguered Nadine looks to the sky and calls out to God in exasperation. On one occasion she asks, "Are You even up there?!" Another time she pleads, "Please, God, help me!" But then she shakes her head and laments, "Why am I doing this? You've never given me one thing."
Nadine repeatedly voices her thoughts and fantasies about sex and even types out a mock text to a cute guy named Nick—expressing her desire to perform various sex acts with him. Then she accidentally sends the randy message. Later Nick texts back and invites her out, only to start kissing and groping her, and pulling down her underwear. (Nothing is seen.) Nadine suddenly realizes her error and pushes him off, much to Nick's confusion. "I'm not here to get to know you!" he snorts.
Nadine catches her best friend, Krista, in bed with her brother (they're both covered). Krista and Darian hook up several times thereafter, and Mona doesn't seem to be concerned with their in-house sexual adventures in the slightest. In fact, Mona openly talks about going off on a sex-filled weekend herself with a guy (who's married) she met on a dating site. Nadine talks crudely about her mom's sexual choices.
At a party, teen couples make out passionately. Some high school girls wear revealing outfits. Nadine wears a skimpy bathing suit. She also jokes about sex with a boy named Erwin. Some of Erwin's drawings feature busty alien girls and a character with penises for fingers.
Nadine's dad has what appears to be a heart attack while driving. He swerves and crashes into the back of another vehicle.
Three young female bullies push Nadine to the ground. Nadine makes several comments about committing suicide, though it's pretty clear they're hyperbolic, not something she's seriously considering.
Crude or Profane Language
About 15 f-words and 20 s-words. "A--," "b--ch" and "h---" are all spit out a couple of times each. God's and Jesus' names are misused nearly 20 times. Crude references are made to male and female body parts.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Teens play a drinking game and imbibe beer at a party. A girl who's obviously binge drinking there is very inebriated.
Nadine gets drunk in another setting and winds up getting sick. She takes a prescribed antidepressant. Her mother drinks wine.
Other Negative Elements
Some of Mr. Bruner's retorts are a little edgy at times. During one of Nadine's visits, for instance, he reads an imaginary suicide note of his own that suggests (with dark humor) that death would be easier than hearing Nadine's rants.
We see Nadine sitting on the toilet dressed in a skirt. Her dad tells a flatulence joke. An animated alien in a student film defecates when he's frightened.
Mona emotionally scolds her daughter, saying, "Your dad would be so disappointed in the way you're turning out." Nadine rails against her mother and steals her car.
"I had the worst thought," 17-year-old Nadine says during one of her typically messed-up days. "I have to spend the rest of my life with myself."
That straightforward, simple statement—said with a slightly depressed sigh—is something many of us have probably felt at certain seasons of our lives. And if you think about it, it's a philosophical realization that carries equal parts heartache and hope.
After all, we do have to live with the choices we make, with the people we become. We must pick up and shoulder our every mistake and thick-headed action. Fortunately, while we tread through this difficult life, we can make thoughtful decisions as well. We sometimes connect with others who make that trudging journey with ourselves just a bit better. They can even make us want to be a bit better.
That's the message this coming-of-age flick endeavors to communicate: Life can stink, but it has its good moments, too. That message is delivered via well-acted, brisk humor. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that actress Hailee Steinfeld's Nadine is as likeable a crying-out-for-help teen as you're likely to meet onscreen.
The problem is The Edge of Seventeen also packs noxious teen-movie content into that humor and insight. It accepts the "fact" that an average high schooler's day is constantly peppered with f-bombs and the like. It takes it for granted that adults are generally just as messed up and wisdom-free as their kids—regularly taking off and leaving teenagers to their own drunken beer-pong partying ways on the weekends. For that matter, in this cinematic world it's fine and dandy for a teen to bring his current squeeze up to his room for a, uh, sleepover—even when mom or dad are just down the hall.
It's that kind of worldview, with its "modern" mixed messages, that makes this pic less than it could have been. Not to mention less enjoyable to spend at least a part of your life with.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine; Woody Harrelson as Mr. Bruner; Blake Jenner as Darian; Kyra Sedgwick as Mona/Mom; Haley Lu Richardson as Krista; Hayden Szeto as Erwin
Kelly Fremon Craig ( )
Sony Pictures Entertainment
November 18, 2016
February 14, 2017