Edge of Perfection

Every generation has coming of age films, some more than others (thanks John Hughes). When these films work, they’re absolute magic. That’s Edge of Seventeen.

A scant few coming of age dramas do it all right – that mixture of angst, nervousness, comical confusion, and uncomfortable misunderstandings. At their core is a character, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) in this case, someone an audience can wrap around and hold onto as they live or relive their circumstances. Characters need to stand out but not know it. They need to differentiate and exude their personalities. They need to amplify the problems of suburbia and extol the emotions which dominate teenage life. Credit Edge of Seventeen on all counts.

It’s a splendid, witty life adventure, peering into the cracks of friendship and into the realm of graceless romance. Careful, smart, observant, hilarious; additional traits which define this darling genre so prolific among indies. With Edge of Seventeen, writer/director Kelly Craig seems to be reflecting her own youth. So much of this piece feels personally invested, too authentic as to be anything but. The best comedy always comes from reality.

Why these films remain attractive is indicative of their broad value

Steinfeld deserves significant credit, molding Nadine into a teen with typical teen problems, then amplified by a careless mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and jock brother. Each buries the loss of a family member, a receded emotional explosion waiting to pop. The film’s discovery is that of self-identity, the “odd” girl finding the match to her oddness while she learns those around her understood all the while. Sounds pedestrian, yet delivered with that splendid off-hand indie spark which feels utterly organic.

So carefully treading comedy and drama, Edge of Seventeen comes to rely on purposefully abstract characters to push itself forward, at their best in Nadine’s teacher (Woody Harrelson). Swift to backtalk, sarcastic, but entirely perceptive, he grabs hold of her out-of-place teenage archetype to relieve her of loneliness.

Disassociate this from gender, even if Edge of Seventeen exudes a feminine touch. Why these films remain attractive is indicative of their broad value. Those mopey battles with parents, misinterpreted signals, squabbles with friends, and other fights against maturity resonate when done with lifelike, genuine, and dimensional characters. Few deliver better than Edge of Seventeen.


Digital lensing for Edge of Seventeen struggles at home, battling noise in clumpy bunches to obnoxious levels. At the third act’s nadir, Darian (Blake Jenner) seems to wear noise as if eye liner. While the rest of the image is clear, his eyes buzz with artifacts. Noise jumps into the frame at will, bouncing between a textural touch and a nuisance, poorly resolved by Universal’s encode.

Without a strong color palette – typically faded and dry – black levels fall into patterns of deep gray, further allowing noise to take hold. Contrast at least helps. Bright interiors and exteriors give Edge of Seventeen life. Color spreads throughout, whether wardrobe choices or locations. Natural flesh tones add appeal too.

Where it counts is fine detail, nicely rendering close-ups and their facial definition. Mid-range material mostly turns into a victim of noise, while exteriors of the smartly nondescript suburbia show off the resolution. Edge of Seventeen clearly comes from a high-res source and digital master, yet lost to the unclean realities of digital cinema.


A 7.1 soundstage isn’t utilized often. Objects fall into the appropriate channels and spread around infrequently. Edge of Seventeen is a story of ambiance, capturing the busy halls of high school or the loudness of a party. It’s effective.

Notable is a scenario of heavy rain and thunder, spreading the soundstage with impressive use of the rears. The pop soundtrack will work over the subwoofer where the rest of the film keeps it inactive.


Five minutes of laugh-worthy outtakes and three deleted scenes make up the bonus menu.

  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Hailee Steinfeld dances between the comical and dramatic in this wonderful coming of age offering.

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