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THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: 4 STARS. “throw back to John Hughes 1980s films.”

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-8-57-27-am“The Edge of Seventeen” is a contemporary coming of age story that feels like a throw back to the John Hughes films of the 1980s. Think “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink” with an updated soundtrack and you get the idea.

Hailee Steinfeld is Nadine, a dramatic seventeen-year-old who thinks the world is divided into two camps, those who are winners and exude confidence in those who want to blow those people up. Her handsome brother Darian (Blake Jenner) falls into the former camp, she into the latter. Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), Nadine’s oldest (and only) friend is her emotional support and sounding board until one drunken night when something unspeakable happens—Krista and Darian hook up. The relationship drives a wedge between the two BFFs—“ You can’t have both. Its me or him. Pick,” Nadine demands.—and Nadine finds herself on the outside at school and at home. With more time on her hands the teenager finds new ways to vex her self-absorbed mother (Kyra Sedgwick), pine over her Facebook crush (Alexander Calvert) and bond with her sardonic teacher (Woody Harrelson). In the background, trying to be seen and heard, is Erwin (Hayden Szeto), an awkward and sweet classmate with eyes for Nadine.

The story sounds like something we’ve seen before but Steinfeld’s performance makes it seem fresh and new. In Nadine we have a composite of what it is to be a teenager, all the confusion, the fun, the rage, the melancholy, everything. It’s tremendous work that grounds the movie and gives equal weight to the comedy and the drama of her teenage life. The look on her face as the realization sinks in that her former best has left her behind for a boy and a game of Beer Pong is almost Shakespearean in its portrayal of teen angst.

Surrounding Steinfeld are Harrelson whose laid-back performance is a delicate mix of sarcasm and compassion, Szeto, who oozes awkward charm and Sedgwick who brings new meaning to the word frazzled. Strong work from all, but all orbit in Steinfeld’s universe.

Thanks to a great central performance “The Edge of Seventeen” is funny, heartbreaking and melancholic, sometimes all at once.

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