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The Edge of Seventeen — the kids of today

Hughesian youth

The Edge of Seventeen: “What do you mean, ‘It’s all downhill from here?’”
The Edge of Seventeen: “What do you mean, ‘It’s all downhill from here?’”

Writer-director-producer Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen offers a verbally frank take on the horrors of adolescence — difficult parents, difficult siblings, difficult romantic interests, and even difficult best friends — gentled just enough to provide solid entertainment. (Especially if you liked John Hughes’s teen oeuvre.)

An illustration: when star Hailee Steinfeld breaks in on her favorite teacher (an appealing Woody Harrelson) during his lunch hour and declares her intention to kill herself over her mountainous pile of woes, it isn’t quite played for laughs, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t take her threat seriously, and so neither should we. The story is also largely purged of the unreal/hyperreal realm of social media; we get a hint of cyberlonging here and an accidentally sent text there, but Screenworld is no kind of dominant, omnipresent force. So it’s no surprise when the protagonist refers to herself as an old soul, recalls her best friend being dressed like an old man when they first met, and declares to a would-be suitor that when she looks at him, she sees an old man. It’s the kids of today, filtered through a somewhat more grownup sensibility.

Movie

Edge of Seventeen **

thumbnail

Writer-director-producer Kelly Fremon Craig’s <em>The Edge of Seventeen</em> offers a verbally frank take on the horrors of adolescence — difficult parents, difficult siblings, difficult romantic interests, and even difficult best friends — gentled just enough to provide solid entertainment. (Especially if you liked John Hughes’ teen oeuvre.) An illustration: when star Hailee Steinfeld breaks in on her favorite teacher (an appealing Woody Harrelson) during his lunch hour and declares her intention to kill herself over her mountainous pile of woes, it isn’t quite played for laughs, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t take her threat seriously, and so neither should we. The story is also largely purged of the unreal/hyperreal realm of social media; we get a hint of cyberlonging here and an accidentally sent text there, but Screenworld is no kind of dominant, omnipresent force. So it’s no surprise when the protagonist refers to herself as an old soul, recalls her best friend being dressed like an old man when they first met, and declares to a would-be suitor that when she looks at him, she sees an old man. It's a snapshot of the kids of today, overlaid with the filter of a somewhat more grownup sensibility.

Find showtimes

Interview with The Edge of Seventeen star Hailee Steinfeld

Matthew Lickona: So there’s a lot of buzz about how this film captures the spirit of a generation. What’s one thing you think it nailed and one thing you think it missed?

Hailee Steinfeld: I think it definitely nailed our form of communication: how it affects us, how it affects the way we meet people, how it affects our perception of them. I think it nailed it without making it the center of the film; it just acknowledged it. As for something it missed, there was really nothing that stood out. Beginning to middle to end, it’s raw, it’s truthful, and it’s unapologetic.

ML: You’ve said that the film has a “John Hughes-y vibe.” How would you describe that?

HS: I guess in the way it feels timeless. The way it’s shot, the way it looks, it’s got this grainy, real, homemade feel to it. And I think the fact that the themes are universal. And again, I think “unapologetic” would be the perfect word to describe those films as well.

ML: How did you build the character of Nadine, did you pull from your own life or did you have to go fishing?

HS: I very much pulled from my own experience. I guess, not really having that traditional high school experience, I could pull on the isolation and alienation I felt when I was plopped in the middle of a high school hallway and didn’t know where to look or where to go when the bell went off. Also, just trying to find the answers to all those questions that we wake up and ask ourselves every day. The development process started in the audition I had with [director] Kelly [Fremon Craig] — that was one of three. And the excitement never really stopped.

ML: At one point, Nadine gives a speech about how she’s an old soul. Do you think that’s true, and if so, is there some special value in that?

HS: Yeah, it’s true; she definitely tells it like it is. But I think it’s not as deep as she makes it sound. She has her movies, her music, her interests that are different from others, because they go back a little bit further than what she feels her generation is aware of. But it’s one of those things where if you go around saying you’re mature, is that really the mature thing to do? Just because she is an old soul, does that mean she is one? Just the fact that you have to say it, you know? The value would be just having a different perspective on life. But she’s talking about how she feels disconnected from her own generation because she’s more intrigued by previous forms of communication than by what she’s living through today.

ML: Is there a teen movie you’ve watched more than ten times?

HS: Mean Girls. I love it, and I feel like it never gets old. There have been times when I’ll go over to a friend’s house, and it’s just on, and you just end up watching it.

ML: You have a dual career going right now, acting and singing. What’s something that each does for you that the other doesn’t?

HS: With singing and performing, there’s a live element that you don’t have when you’re making a movie. It’s very hard to describe, but having a live and instant reaction is just completely thrilling and exhilarating. On the other hand, with movies, you get months at a time to immerse yourself in one specific mindset, which I love getting lost in.

ML: Your choices for roles have covered a pretty broad swath; the last thing I remember seeing you in was the Civil War drama The Keeping Room. What does a project have to have in order to interest you?

HS: It’s a combination of the material, the people, and if it’s something that seems impossible in a way at the start and feels like an accomplishment once it’s done.

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The Edge of Seventeen: “What do you mean, ‘It’s all downhill from here?’”
The Edge of Seventeen: “What do you mean, ‘It’s all downhill from here?’”

Writer-director-producer Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen offers a verbally frank take on the horrors of adolescence — difficult parents, difficult siblings, difficult romantic interests, and even difficult best friends — gentled just enough to provide solid entertainment. (Especially if you liked John Hughes’s teen oeuvre.)

An illustration: when star Hailee Steinfeld breaks in on her favorite teacher (an appealing Woody Harrelson) during his lunch hour and declares her intention to kill herself over her mountainous pile of woes, it isn’t quite played for laughs, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t take her threat seriously, and so neither should we. The story is also largely purged of the unreal/hyperreal realm of social media; we get a hint of cyberlonging here and an accidentally sent text there, but Screenworld is no kind of dominant, omnipresent force. So it’s no surprise when the protagonist refers to herself as an old soul, recalls her best friend being dressed like an old man when they first met, and declares to a would-be suitor that when she looks at him, she sees an old man. It’s the kids of today, filtered through a somewhat more grownup sensibility.

Movie

Edge of Seventeen **

thumbnail

Writer-director-producer Kelly Fremon Craig’s <em>The Edge of Seventeen</em> offers a verbally frank take on the horrors of adolescence — difficult parents, difficult siblings, difficult romantic interests, and even difficult best friends — gentled just enough to provide solid entertainment. (Especially if you liked John Hughes’ teen oeuvre.) An illustration: when star Hailee Steinfeld breaks in on her favorite teacher (an appealing Woody Harrelson) during his lunch hour and declares her intention to kill herself over her mountainous pile of woes, it isn’t quite played for laughs, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t take her threat seriously, and so neither should we. The story is also largely purged of the unreal/hyperreal realm of social media; we get a hint of cyberlonging here and an accidentally sent text there, but Screenworld is no kind of dominant, omnipresent force. So it’s no surprise when the protagonist refers to herself as an old soul, recalls her best friend being dressed like an old man when they first met, and declares to a would-be suitor that when she looks at him, she sees an old man. It's a snapshot of the kids of today, overlaid with the filter of a somewhat more grownup sensibility.

Find showtimes

Interview with The Edge of Seventeen star Hailee Steinfeld

Matthew Lickona: So there’s a lot of buzz about how this film captures the spirit of a generation. What’s one thing you think it nailed and one thing you think it missed?

Hailee Steinfeld: I think it definitely nailed our form of communication: how it affects us, how it affects the way we meet people, how it affects our perception of them. I think it nailed it without making it the center of the film; it just acknowledged it. As for something it missed, there was really nothing that stood out. Beginning to middle to end, it’s raw, it’s truthful, and it’s unapologetic.

ML: You’ve said that the film has a “John Hughes-y vibe.” How would you describe that?

HS: I guess in the way it feels timeless. The way it’s shot, the way it looks, it’s got this grainy, real, homemade feel to it. And I think the fact that the themes are universal. And again, I think “unapologetic” would be the perfect word to describe those films as well.

ML: How did you build the character of Nadine, did you pull from your own life or did you have to go fishing?

HS: I very much pulled from my own experience. I guess, not really having that traditional high school experience, I could pull on the isolation and alienation I felt when I was plopped in the middle of a high school hallway and didn’t know where to look or where to go when the bell went off. Also, just trying to find the answers to all those questions that we wake up and ask ourselves every day. The development process started in the audition I had with [director] Kelly [Fremon Craig] — that was one of three. And the excitement never really stopped.

ML: At one point, Nadine gives a speech about how she’s an old soul. Do you think that’s true, and if so, is there some special value in that?

HS: Yeah, it’s true; she definitely tells it like it is. But I think it’s not as deep as she makes it sound. She has her movies, her music, her interests that are different from others, because they go back a little bit further than what she feels her generation is aware of. But it’s one of those things where if you go around saying you’re mature, is that really the mature thing to do? Just because she is an old soul, does that mean she is one? Just the fact that you have to say it, you know? The value would be just having a different perspective on life. But she’s talking about how she feels disconnected from her own generation because she’s more intrigued by previous forms of communication than by what she’s living through today.

ML: Is there a teen movie you’ve watched more than ten times?

HS: Mean Girls. I love it, and I feel like it never gets old. There have been times when I’ll go over to a friend’s house, and it’s just on, and you just end up watching it.

ML: You have a dual career going right now, acting and singing. What’s something that each does for you that the other doesn’t?

HS: With singing and performing, there’s a live element that you don’t have when you’re making a movie. It’s very hard to describe, but having a live and instant reaction is just completely thrilling and exhilarating. On the other hand, with movies, you get months at a time to immerse yourself in one specific mindset, which I love getting lost in.

ML: Your choices for roles have covered a pretty broad swath; the last thing I remember seeing you in was the Civil War drama The Keeping Room. What does a project have to have in order to interest you?

HS: It’s a combination of the material, the people, and if it’s something that seems impossible in a way at the start and feels like an accomplishment once it’s done.

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