The Edge of Seventeen movie full length review - it asks for your sympathy, or more-so your empathy, while being very funny and perceptive
If you're on the outside, in a strange way it may be preferable in certain ways than being the "perfect" child.
I know this from experience - being a teenager sucked, and felt very much alone and alienated and without many (if any) friends, and feeling like everyone around was full of crap and not worth paying attention to - that there is this ironic thing that being someone like Nadine in this story is that it makes that person feel special. This is a revelation that comes late in the movie, but it's something that should've been seen for so long: you now, Nadine, the 'perfect' ones are pretty damn miserable too. Know that and see that. That's a message enough.
The other problem for teenagers, which I think a lot of people (myself included) can relate to, is that sense of low self esteem. All the time, always, pervasive, even if life is, when looking from outside, not too bad. Nadine has a good friend, Krista, who she's been close with since she was a little kid, and she has a loving mother (though a little too, what's the word, not relatable or able to connect with or aw hell mothers and daughters at that age never get along for like two years), and also a perfect brother... and then the conflict comes when, outside of anything Nadine does, Krista and Darian (Blake Jenner) become a serious couple. Oh, and Nadine's dad died when she was 13 so there's that on top of everything else.
The filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig makes sure there's enough inner conflict so that when Nadine does go into what could be called a spiral of despair and depression, there is *some* context for it. I have to wonder if I would have liked the film as much or found enough to be sympathetic and/or even empathetic (yes, as a guy I can feel in her shoes, it's past gender and into how a worldview is at that age, of other people in general), if there hadn't been that past baggage, of having identity issues in a family, or lacking the father who was the one who loved her the most, if she was just, uh, another teenage girl with issues of identity and crushing on the cute unattainable boy (with that hair, the girls will say!) I think the power and brilliance of the script, and there is brilliance to it for the most part, is that Craig makes sure to have characters call Nadine on her problems, that she is surrounded by people who both care about her AND make sure to see through her poutier/more dramatic moments.
And there is a lot of drama here, a lot of it may be (or just is) Nadine's own making. The movie opens with the scene we've seen from the trailers where she tells Woody Harrelson's teacher character that she's going to kill herself (his response, in the ways of knowing, sympathetic but No-BS teachers who have clearly seen girls like Nadine before, has his own "suicide note" that he reads to her, undercutting her immediately), and it makes for something that is funny and poignant and incredibly clever; his response to her frantic sense of panic over sending the message asking the cute-boy to do things to her (and her to him) in the Pet-Land backroom is the kind of witty line one might expect in a less-strict script from the 1940's. There's wit burning off the screen here.
These characters, for the most part here, are not dumb characters or stupid, or if they make the wrong decisions (Nadine most of all) it's out of not being able to control themselves emotionally. I do wish that Krista had been a little more in the film, or a little more developed. But it's not her story anyway; if anything this filmmaker knows that in other conventional stories, it might be her story and Darian. But Nadine is interesting *because* she is so messed up and we want to see her get better, or to connect more with the genuine nice guy (aka slightly "dorky" but in a way that should be attractive), and Craig may make her unlikable to some in the audience - those, maybe, that just see her as the "B" word that can't get her s*** together and smarten up (the only criticism I thought of was when she asked Erwin if he had a pool, and when he said yes and that she had one too I thought, 'huh, alright, that should be fine shouldn't it?')
I think the key to The Edge of Seventeen's success is that the script was one thing, and it is already a smart and perceptive script - dare I, oh, hell, I'll just say it, I like it more than something that is quirkier but still in the pocket of certain clichés like JUNO - but the actors have to make it come alive. Steinfeld is spectacular in making Nadine someone who you more than feel fore but can put your shoes into, of that insecurity matched with that "I hate all these other people" feeling, and that she makes her charming despite those moments when she does some terrible things to her family. Harrelson is the "wise old man" of the film (and he's BALD too, or, you know, sort of balding, that's the best Nadine can come up with as far as a put down), and Sedgwick is wonderful as the mother too, making someone who is seen one way to her daughter and to us another way as frustrated, flustered and still loving deep down.