I’m surprised just how straight everyone behind this film played it. It’s an earnest teen flick, startlingly free of the cynicism that pervades what’s left of the genre these days, so much so that it even feels somewhat dull in its wholesomeness at times, but the authenticity and performances keep it all worthwhile.
Woody Harrelson is definitely the highlight, and not just for being the comic highpoint of the film, but Hailee Steinfeld does strong work as the lead too. Helping the actors out is the dialogue that feels very true-to-life and how modern teenagers actually speak; it doesn’t overdo it, but doesn’t feel glaringly like an adult well beyond their teen years wrote it either. I liked how timeless a lot of the dialogue and story felt too. While there is social media and it plays some part in the film, it’s a minor aspect, and the bulk of the story and relationships are based on universally-applicable themes. That’s a large part of why a lot of the cliches didn’t bother me, but still, there were some that grated (particularly with the character of Erwin). As the film went on, I quickly forgot the clunky first twenty minutes, complete with unnecessary backstory flashbacks and narration.
“The Edge of Seventeen” is far from the genre-transcending heights of something like “Superbad”, but it’s still far above most of its peers. I give it three sets of car keys, and a missent text.