HOW-TO Make a Coming Of Age Movie Great … Or 5 Hopes For The Edge Of Seventeen!

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If you’re one to eagerly anticipate fall and winter movie releases (you know, when all the good stuff finally comes out), you may have started to hear a little bit about The Edge Of Seventeen, which is due out on Nov. 18. But in case this movie’s not on your radar yet, here’s a quick overview.

Multicultural actress Hailee Steinfeld, the little girl who wowed us all in True Grit and unexpectedly burst onto the scene as a singer in Pitch Perfect 2, plays Nadine Byrd, a high school junior going through some growing pains. Specifically, her handsome and popular older brother Darian (#WBWD Blake Jenner), who already casts a big shadow, starts dating her best friend Krista. That’s enough to drive any girl crazy, and Nadine finds herself relying on her teacher, the great Woody Harrelson, and new friends to get past the struggle and find herself as she inches closer to adulthood. What looks like a classic coming-of-age story for the current generation of young people has already earned recognition by the Toronto Film Festival, and it looks like it could be an Oscars dark horse come winter. Nesta Cooper, Hayden Szeto (pictured with Hailee above) and Daniel Bacon also star.

It’ll be fun to see how good this movie ends up being, but it will also be fascinating to see what kinds of commentary it makes on modern youth. That tends to be the underlying purpose of a lot of these types of stories, and sometimes it’s what makes the most lasting impact. So just for fun as we look ahead to this promising Indie dramedy, here are a few hopes in that department.

1. Let’s Address Music. There’s a reason that pop is pop—it’s literally popular, which means droves of people are listening to it. But if you’re like some of us DivaGals (millennial and such), you have more friends who are annoyed with the modern state of music than impressed by it. It feels like the tide is slowly starting to turn against overproduced, beat-centric and borderline-artificial music, and it would be great to see this reflected in the soundtrack that will surround a bunch of high school kids in 2016. Based on the beautiful cover of The Beatles‘ “Help,” which appears to be this version by Howie Day in the trailer, there may be hope in this regard.

2. Let’s Avoid Millennial Distinctions. Yes, some of us DivaGals can’t be the only ones getting a little bit tired of the media’s frequent characterizations of millennials: all self-absorbed, obnoxiously idealistic, grumpy, entrepreneurial and obliviously addicted to technology, more or less. It’s actually unclear if a 17-year-old in 2016 still qualifies as a millennial, but either way it would be nice to see the film avoid falling back on these kinds of stereotypes for young people. Based on the trailer, it just might. Scenes like Nadine sitting on a curb outside a convenience store sipping an Icee almost seem like they were plucked from the ’80s, or at least embrace the same low-key indie flavor that worked so well in films like Juno, The Inkwell, Dope etc. in which characters are ordinary people and not caricatures.

3. Let’s Do Away With Chatspeak. Part of the aforementioned millennial tech addiction is the deterioration of regular conversation into text speak, or chatspeak, or whatever you may call it. This isn’t exactly a problem, and in fact it’s arguably made communication more convenient and expressive. To illustrate that point, there’s actually a communal gaming platform online (a popular place for this kind of communication) that includes a full chat lingo glossary including terms like SWAK (sealed with a kiss) and HHIS (hanging head in shame) that express things that are hard to convey in more ordinary language. So this is not an accusation that young people who text in abbreviations are doing anything wrong. But in films and TV shows, there does tend to be something reductive in teens’ use of excessive chatspeak; it’s used to make a whole generation appear kind of dumb and shallow, and it would be nice to see that trend reversed. Again, it seems like there’s hope—one hilarious text message read aloud in the trailer is actually criticized for containing run-on sentences!

4. Let’s Acknowledge Girls Can Be Friends. One of the strangest narratives in society is that girlfriends are secretly enemies with each other, whereas guys embrace the infamous “bros before hoes” mentality. We get where it all comes from. There does tend to be more drama between girlfriends during the teenage years, or at least you don’t see as many boys bickering with each other. But we’re hoping this film, with such a heavy focus on Nadine’s “break-up” with her best friend, doesn’t further the idea that girl bonds don’t really exist in high school. It’s just nonsense.

5. Let’s Make High School Parties Realistic. For some reason, filmmakers have a tendency to make high school parties seem like the stuff of fraternity and sorority dreams. That is to say they’re not just unrealistic for high school kids, but they’re representative of the very most lucrative and insane college bashes. Remember the incredible lake house in American Pie? Or the entirety of this ridiculous movie? Not many high school students experience parties like that (or necessarily want to). By the look of The Edge Of Seventeen‘s trailer, it’s taking a more realistic approach, somewhat like Superbad. We’re seeing gatherings at houses where the parents are out of town, solo cups and mingling, and so forth. It’s just a more believable approach and helps the narrative feel more relatable.

The early buzz is that this is going to be a very strong film, and one that the critics will likely be raving about in a few months’ time. And by avoiding some clichés and addressing these wishes, it can really stand out even in a genre that’s crowded with pleasant, but not necessarily great, movies.

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