Edge of Seventeen (1999)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Gay & Lesbian Films, Teen Movie  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - China, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it could have devolved into pointless '80s nostalgia à la The Wedding Singer or sunk into coming-out-of-the-closet platitudes, this low-budget indie successfully nails the nuances of both small-town alternateens and gay self-involvement. Most such films portray their queer protagonists as victims/heroes in a predictable moth-to-butterfly arc. But Edge of Seventeen's screenplay, by first-timer Todd Stephens, paints the coming-out process in appropriate shades of grey. Chris Stafford's gawky and reticent, yet sartorially flamboyant, Eric gets stepped on more than once as he comes to terms with his sexuality. But instead of bullies or unsympathetic parents, it's gay-bar man traps who rain on his pride parade. Along the way, Eric himself treats his eternally patient gal pal Maggie (played with tender economy by the wonderful Tina Holmes) like just another accessory, a prop with which to explore his own masculinity. Such ironies are too often lost in this type of film. The beneficent lesbian Angie and her trio of queenly helpers may seem like a convenient plot device, but Lea DeLaria invests the character with comic gusto. Stephanie McVay, meanwhile, plays a wonderful everymom, equal parts concern and compassion for her son and herself. Ane Crabtree's costumes would be a crime against fashion if they weren't such an uncannily accurate snapshot of rebellious suburbia. That Edge of Seventeen so deftly weaves its pop-culture backdrop into its plot is just another of the film's many and varied charms.