For quite some time the smart teenage comedy, which hit its stride during the 1980s with John Hughes’ canon, has been dormant. But that’s about to change with Kelly Fremon Craig’s feature directorial debut The Edge of Seventeen. Despite the onslaught of the digital age and the rapid-fire polarity expressed by the under-18 set on social media, teen angst remains rather consistent from generation to generation. That’s what makes Edge of Seventeen so appealing: Everyone from 13 to fifty-something are bound to relate to the awkward plight of Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine as she contends with everything from the shallow, dreamy guy she’s eyeing to her best friend’s poor choices. One of the film’s takeaways is Nadine’s wry relationship with her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who is the emotional sounding board for everything she’s weathering following her father’s sudden death.
“It’s a truth seeking film,” pinpoints the pic’s producer James L. Brooks.
Says Craig, “We took a journalistic approach and did a ton of research and talked to just a ton of teenagers across the U.S. to ask them every question under the sun to make sure we were getting this generation right. And so, it really came out of those sessions of feeling like wanting to give this generation something that felt like ‘Here’s an accurate – as accurate as I can make it – portrayal of what you’re going through today.”
As Nadine, the 19-year old Steinfeld is as vivacious here in her comic timing as she was in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 redo of True Grit. It would come as no surprise to see her in the Golden Globes lead actress comedy category come December. STX Entertainment opens The Edge of Seventeen on Nov. 18. It’s also the closing night film here at the Toronto International Film Festival.