Coming-of-age film highlights stresses of young adulthood

The recently released movie “The Edge of Seventeen,” mainly geared toward a millenial audience, explores the stress of youth, summed up in its tagline, “You’re only young once...is it over yet?” Courtesy of California Film Institute/Vimeo

After a somewhat lonely Thanksgiving Break in which I hardly left my room in Main Building, I knew I had to peel myself out of my bed and do something fun eventually. When one of my friends returned from her visit to the city, I begged her to go see the movie “Edge of Seventeen” with me. I had a lot of hope for the film because of the miraculous 94 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating it had earned, as well as the strong “Juno” vibes it had been giving me during the many YouTube and Spotify advertisements I was subjected to during break.

Settling into the oversized seats at the Poughkeepsie Galleria theatre, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the film whose tagline read: “You’re only young once…is it over yet?” But once I got over the fact that 20 to 30 year olds were playing high school aged students, I really began to get into the story.

This movie centers around high school junior Nadine and how she feels that her life is completely falling apart once her big brother starts to date her best friend. It isn’t enough that Nadine’s older, more popular brother is dating her long time best friend though, which is just one of the many examples of life sticking it to Nadine. A few more notable things that have sucked for Nadine: As a very young girl she was bullied for no apparent reason (as is often the case), she lost her dad when she was a tween, and, as a teen, Nadine has to deal with a mom who seems to mean well, but is made to appear more or less not helpful.

This movie shamelessly plays on some tropes that I’m sure the producers hoped many of us millennials would relate to from personal experience. We are invested in Nadine’s character and her plight because really, who among us has not spent time in the shadow of an oldest sibling? Who among us can’t say that we’re both conventionally attractive and smart while also being too painfully awkward to have any sort of social capital? Who among us hasn’t irrationally lusted after the hot silent-type who works at our local pet shop?

Maybe those last two weren’t her most relatable qualities—but relatability aside, I rooted for this girl. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the seventeenth year of life is a weird time to be alive, and this is why I was on her side. For a majority of the movie, her best friend and confidante was her history teacher and she never missed an opportunity for self-deprecation. Now there’s something that some of us can really relate to.

Because this movie seemed to be advertised primarily to a millennial audience, I had high hopes for the soundtrack. Luckily for me, I enjoyed many familiar songs that underscored the film as well as a number of new tunes. I would especially recommend listening to “Don’t You Wait” by Cloves, and I challenge you not to feel angsty. Speaking of angst, another thing that I really enjoyed about the movie was the way that it represented Nadine’s social anxiety and selfdoubt through her inner narrations. Throughout the film, we heard a lot of what was going on in her head, and unlike a lot of what Nadine said out loud during the film, it was not for comedic effect. This narration showed just how defeated and upset she felt even if she was making jokes out loud.

One thing that I thought this movie did especially well was balancing some very real moments with plenty of light-hearted and comedic ones. In this same vein however, I thought it was unfortunate that the movie chose to capitalize on the use of problematic jokes. I say capitalize, because while my friend and I cringed at a number of jokes that did not land for us at all, a majority of our fellow movie-goers were laughing out loud at these arguably insensitive lines, and I’m sure this split reaction could be found in many theatres.

While I was bothered by the language of some of the jokes, many jokes used in the film were made in better taste and hit very close to home in my stress-addled and occasionally angsty brain.

Looking past the bits of problematic humor and at the movie as a whole, I have to agree with many other ~real~ critics in saying that “Edge of Seventeen” was very well written. The way the dialogue served to characterize these teens felt very specific. To me, they were not teen caricatures, but instead, pretty effective representations of adolescence. The awkwardness seemed all too real to someone who has figuratively put her foot in her mouth on more than one occasion. And on the other hand, there were a number of well-crafted and truly sad moments that aren’t usually touched on during comedic coming of age stories.

While the script clearly served them well, a script alone isn’t enough to carry a movie. The film relied on the talents of the actors to accomplish this, and speaking of the actors in this film, I would like to take the time to personally thank Melissa Kostenbauder the casting agent for this movie: Thank you, Melissa. Thank you for introducing me to breakout star Hayden Szeto. He played a believably awkward guy named Erwin who shares a class with and eventually befriends Nadine. Who cares if Szeto is a 31 year old man playing a teen? I would still 10/10 recommend that you Google search this guy in your free time, and of course, see the movie.

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