- "Actress of her generation" Hailee Steinfeld
“So with the slow graceful flow of age/I went forth with an age-old desire to please/on the edge of 17,” sings Stevie Nicks in her 1982 classic. The hero of the new comedy The Edge of Seventeen, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), also has a desire to please, though in a refreshing twist it’s mostly for her own sexuality and goals. Adult figures are figures of scorn, targets of rage. This is Nadine’s youth, dammit. And it’s a mess.
“I think the film is truth-seeking,” says writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig in a Yorkville hotel a few days before her debut will close the Toronto International Film Festival, “and never trying to be a teen genre film. It’s about a teen girl but I don’t think it’s a teen film.”
To Fremon Craig’s point, all the beats are there but the movie hits just to the left of all them. Of course Nadine’s best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) hooks up with her popular brother Darian (Blake Jenner). But it’s a real relationship, and Darian isn’t a dick. Of course there’s some Facebook-related embarrassment, but it doesn’t go viral. Of course Nadine has a special relationship with her English teacher, but there’s zero sexual anything.
The Edge of Seventeen is well-anchored by Steinfeld, whose Nadine is witty and acerbic and sensitive all at once.
“Nobody in the world could’ve done it except her. I actually know because we auditioned 1,000 girls,” says Fremon Craig. “The thing I think she does that’s miraculous is that she can be so pissing funny one minute and the next just rip your heart out with how much pain she carries, in just a look. And she could shift between those things seamlessly, and be tough, but also so delicate. I honestly think she’s the actress of her generation. If she didn’t exist, the movie wouldn’t exist.”