Is there anything more awkward than teenage youth? The period of life that's defined by puberty, high school, and the struggle to figure out one's identity is portrayed with stunning accuracy in the new film, The Edge of Seventeen. The movie tells the story of Nadine, a socially awkward high school junior whose life is upended when her best friend begins dating her outgoing and popular older brother. It certainly sounds like a relatable situation to anyone who's ever gone to high school or had a best friend, but is Edge of Seventeen a true story?
Despite the fact that the movie seems as if it could take place within the halls of any high school in America, it's a complete work of fiction. The story was written by Kelly Fremon Craig, who is also making her directorial debut with the film. The movie's subject matter is one that seems to be of particular interest to Fremon Craig, whose only other screenplay is the Alexis Bledel-starring 2009 coming-of-age film Post Grad, which is about a recent college graduate trying to adapt to her rapidly changing life. So why does Fremon Craig seem so interested in writing movies about protagonists struggling to find their place in the world? Well, it's because she herself goes through the same thing.
"I think there’s something really interesting about that time in your life when you’re... shedding your child self and becoming an adult," the writer told Bustle's Jenn Ficarra. "I remember having [thoughts] at this age, and through my life, where everyone has life figured out except you. Sort of like that thing where you romanticize other people’s lives and feel worse about your own. [That moment] when those evil voices in your head are particularly loud and it’s really easy to believe that I’m the only one who is f*cked up and everyone else is doing great."
In writing the new film, Fremon Craig was also inspired by other teen movies, particularly those made by John Hughes and Cameron Crowe in the '80s, and she set out to make a similar type of generation-defining film for today's youth. "I think what [those films] did was they touched on something real and universal," Fremon Craig told IndieWire's Kate Erbland. "I think all of those movies, in their own way, pay respect to how complicated it is to be young and how messy it is, and also the absurdity of it ... I didn’t set out to make a John Hughes film. It was only just a thing in the back of my head, that those films did mean something to me, and still do. I hope this film can live on the shelf with films like those."
Fremon Craig, who is 36, also did research into today's teens to make the movie relatable to its intended audience. "[I was] Just talking to every teenager I could possibly get my hands on all across the nation," she told Mark Olsen of The Los Angeles Times. "Having just really kind of long therapy-type sessions with them where I’d ask a million questions. And the details that came out of those common stories were so great. And it made me want to pay respect to the messiness; how it’s messy and complicated and absurd and painful and beautiful and a million different things. And then after that was done, it was probably another year or so of actually writing."
So even though The Edge of Seventeen isn't a true story, it feels real because it was inspired by so many real experiences. Whether it's tapping into the stories of today's teenagers, society's collective memories of '80s high school movies, or just everyone's natural desire to find where they belong in the world, the movie will definitely feel familiar to a lot of people.
Images: STX Entertainment; Universal Pictures