Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen (Photo: STX)

★★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Kelly Fremon Craig
STARS Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson

A sparkling gem that joins The Fault in Our Stars and An Education as one of the brightest coming-of-age films of recent vintage, The Edge of Seventeen finds True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld delivering a powerhouse performance as Nadine, a high school outcast whose only friend is the lovely Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Nadine also has a brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), who’s described by everyone as perfect, leading to Nadine feeling even more insecure about herself (as one teen notes, they’re like the movie Twins, with Darian as Schwarzenegger and Nadine as DeVito). When Krista and Darian unexpectedly begin dating, Nadine feels betrayed and spirals further out of control, with her frazzled mom (Kyra Sedgwick) and her sarcastic teacher (Woody Harrelson) only able to do so much to calm her down.

The Edge of Seventeen marks Kelly Fremon Craig’s debut as director and her sophomore session as screenwriter — based on the evidence here, she’s clearly a welcome newcomer to the cinema scene, creating characters who feel painfully real and coaxing impressive turns from all the youngsters (Hayden Szeto is especially noteworthy as the nerdy Erwin). Of course, when it comes to veterans, it’s always good to have Harrelson in your corner — as in The Hunger Games franchise, he’s again a mischievous delight, taking advantage of the scattered scenes that Craig has gifted to him. He provides the humor, the teens provide the heart, and Craig provides one of the season’s must-see movies.

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