Reviewed by GREG KING.
Set against a catchy soundtrack of ’80′s disco hits, featuring everything from Bronski Beat to The Eurythmics, Edge Of Seventeen is a wonderful coming of age and gay coming-out story. It is, essentially, an American variation of a theme well-explored in British films like Beautiful Thing and Get Real, etc, although here the writing is less sharp. Todd Stephens’ script has the sort of insight and honesty that derives from personal experience, giving the material an autobiographical feel. The music, costumes, and cultural references are all signposts to the era, and the film is suffused with a wonderful atmosphere of nostalgia.
Set in a typical town in America’s midwest in the ’80′s, the film centres around Eric (newcomer Chris Stafford in his first major film role), a shy teenager who slowly discovers that he is gay. During the summer school holidays Eric and his girl friend Maggie (Tina Homes) get a job working in the restaurant managed by Angie (lesbian comic Lea DeLaria). Eric and Maggie have been friends for years, although without any serious relationship developing. Eric meets Rod (Andersen Gabrych), the handsome college boy who has just broken up with his boyfriend. Eric and Rod flirt, and have a quick fling. But then Rod then dumps him and returns to college, leaving Eric even further confused about his sexual identity. Eric has his first experience of gay culture, sneaking off to a local gay disco in search of true love and happiness. His early encounters are disappointing and humiliating, until Angie shows him the ropes. However, the hardest part of Eric’s journey of self discovery lies in telling both Maggie and his family the truth.
The performances of the unknown cast are all uniformly good under David Morton’s assured direction. The drop dead gorgeous Stafford brings a fresh-faced appeal and charm to his captivating performance. He captures beautifully the pain, guilt and confusion of an adolescent losing both his innocence and inhibitions as he is slowly introduced to the gay subculture of small town America. DeLaria is also absolutely fabulous in her role, giving Angie a sympathetic edge. Stephanie McVay is also quite convincing as Eric’s mother, who is confused about her son’s increasingly erratic behaviour until she comes to learn, and accept, the truth.
Edge Of Seventeen handles some difficult subject matter with honesty, insight, and humour, although the material lacks any real cutting edge. It’s a safe, and solidly entertaining film that will please audiences without confronting them. Edge Of Seventeen is occasionally a little too melodramatic for its own good. Nonetheless, it also makes a refreshing antidote to the patently false, superficial Hollywood brand of manufactured romantic comedies in which teenagers always seem to know who they are and what they want. Life is not always that simple!