Rich, attractive millennials have problems, boo-hoo

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Edge of Seventeen
Opens November 18

As years go by, some of the luster of John Hughes’ oeuvre has worn off. So-called classics like Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off featured uniformly white casts, rewarded homogeneity and glorified suburban upper middle class.

This is why whenever The Edge of Seventeen is praised as worthy of John Hughes, you should take it with a grain of salt. Sure, the dialogue is sharper than in the average teen comedy and it addresses the diversity issue, but an average episode of Degrassi carries more pathos than this profoundly prefabricated flick.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), an outcast by choice, has a nervous breakdown following the news her best friend and fellow pariah Krista hooked up with her brother (like, how can she live with herself, right?) Without anybody to keep her in check, Nadine goes on a tailspin, which involves awkwardly hitting on the cute, dumb boy at the pet shop and ignoring the earnest kid she has friend-zoned. Dude fails to close on a Ferris wheel, for realz.

It’s very hard to take a film like The Edge of Seventeen seriously when one of the protagonist’s hang-ups is the size of her pool and the average body fat on screen is below five per cent. Instead of a sympathetic hero, Nadine comes across as an overly articulated, entitled brat without redeeming qualities.

Doesn’t help that the beautiful Steinfeld fails miserably at passing for a reject. Edge is too self-aware to pull a She Is All That (give the lead character glasses and call her ‘plain’) but it comes close.

The movie is not entirely without its charms. Teenage insecurity is relatable and the dialogue is fun and breezy (if Diablo Cody-esque), particularly Nadine’s exchanges with her favorite teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson, half amused, half irritated). However, from there to any reflection of real millennial problems (wrecked economy, climate change), there’s considerable distance.