The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Wow, talk about not knowing where a review is going when you start writing it.
This one is quite the journey.
The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment)
Written & Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
This is a hard one to review. The movie is good. The Edge of Seventeen is the story of a socially awkward but whip-smart seventeen year old girl. I really liked it. It is cute and funny and smart and all that good stuff. But the reason I find it so hard to review is that I couldn’t identify with it. Not even a little. Which isn’t usually a problem but the last film I watched was so fucking personal and identifiable. Moonlight was also a coming of age tale like Edge but from a totally different cultural, sexual, financial and social POV. I hate it when I’m watching a movie so soon after another and it affects the way I look at the second. That’s what happened here. The Edge of Seventeen was an excellent movie that didn’t deserve to be compared to Moonlight. It is, however. So this is less of a review and more of the tale of how Moonlight screwed up the way I saw The Edge of Seventeen. Film Comparison Alert!!! Don’t watch these movies back to back.
Moonlight tells the story of a gay black boy who is secretly in love with his bisexual best friend. The Edge of Seventeen tells the story of a straight white girl whose only friend is secretly in love with her over-achieving twin brother. So I’m reading sexual tension between the friends that wasn’t there, in Edge. While seeing her pain at her brother and best friend’s relationship as more about jealousy than it was meant to be. And that’s not the story. God damn it, Moonlight. You ruin everything.
In The Edge of Seventeen the main character is a socially awkward fast-talking wordsmith. And I think I’m getting a little tired of that. And I get it. Writers write what they know. And these talented women screenwriters are writing these socially awkward but creatively and linguistically skilled little girls because that’s more than likely what they were growing up. It’s the Diablo Cody effect. It’s fun and makes for a likable main character. But I don’t know. I identify with her more when the character’s inner monologue is brilliant but what comes out of her mouth isn’t. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Or maybe it’s because Moonlight featured a main character who said like five words the entire movie. God damn it, Moonlight. You ruin everything.
Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic. So is Woody Harrelson as her teacher. The Edge of Seventeen is very funny when these two are on-screen together. He handles her tough exterior and brutal honesty with an almost reckless honesty of his own. This mentor relationship is a stark contrast from the one in Moonlight but with tons of similarities as she uses him to hide from bullies and awkwardness at school and goes to his house to escape un-comfortableness at her home with her mom. Similar to Little’s relationship with the drug dealer Juan in Moonlight. A beautiful parallel between the two amazing movies.
In The Edge of Seventeen, Kyra Sedgwick plays the mom who is spiraling out of control because of personal tragedy and again I couldn’t help but compare her to the mom in Moonlight. Of course there, the tragedy affects the mother and son’s over-all quality of life a lot more. In The Edge of Seventeen they continue to live in the same nice house and great neighborhood despite her mom’s psychological turmoil. Maybe this is cultural. Maybe it’s the crack cocaine. I can’t say.
Both films, (both wonderful films I might add) feature a sexual awakening but just from drastically different points of view. One male. One female. One straight. One gay. Culturally, racially different. Awkward teenage sexual awakening on film. Hard to watch at times but both films handle it brilliantly. The Edge of Seventeen making us laugh and Moonlight making us cry. (God damn it, Moonlight) But both films making us smile.
Because in the end, they are both love stories. Excellent love stories. Gorgeous cinematic young love stories. Exquisitely similar and painfully different. Beautiful and ugly at the same time. Dynamically and diametrically opposed reflections of each other. And it doesn’t matter if it’s funny or dramatic or something in-between. If they’re gay or straight or somewhat in-between. Male and female or someone in-between. Black and white and everything in-between. Love is love and LOVE is love and love is loooove and LoVe is LOVE!!! and… Love?
I take it back. I take it all back. These two movies compliment each other beautifully. Watch them one after the other. I dare you. I implore you. I’m begging you. The Edge of Seventeen is a fantastically funny film to experience right after watching the emotional and amazing Moonlight. It just took me seven paragraphs to fucking realize it.