Movie review of “The Edge of Seventeen”: Hailee Steinfeld is also very good, but it’s Hayden Szeto who shines in this appealing teen dramedy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Sometimes, a movie gets stolen by a performance so utterly winning that you realize that you’re waiting for that character to return to the screen. In Kelly Fremon Craig’s appealing teen dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen,” that performance isn’t the central one by Hailee Steinfeld — though she’s a delight as Nadine, a high-school junior who’s horrified when her only close friend (Haley Lu Richardson) becomes involved with her too-perfect older brother (Blake Jenner). Nor is it the supporting performances by Woody Harrelson as her grumpy but sympathetic history teacher, or Kyra Sedgwick as her distracted, widowed mother.
No, this movie’s revelation is Hayden Szeto as Erwin, the boy who sits next to Nadine in history class and who clearly likes her — so much that he keeps saying the wrong things, followed with a rushed, awkward “I don’t know why I said that.” Szeto (who according to IMDb is in his 30s, but who channels teenspeak perfectly) finds something adorably funny in every moment: Erwin’s dorky-thrilled expression — and little dance of triumph — when Nadine says she’ll come over; his horrified dismay when he moves in for a kiss at the wrong time; his sweet, open smile that indicates to us, long before it’s clear to Nadine, that he’s the Right Boy.
Because this is a teen movie, Nadine is required to spend some time with the Wrong Boy (Alexander Calvert), and you just want her to hurry it along. We all know where this movie is going, and we want it to get there. I wished there might have been a little less focus on the boys and more on the girls’ friendship and its transformation, which seems resolved a little too handily. Nonetheless, “The Edge of Seventeen,” in its R-rated way (booze and sex play supporting roles), is a sweetheart — just like Erwin.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Edge of Seventeen,’ with Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. 104 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking — all involving teens. Several theaters.