“The Edge of Seventeen” Flips Hollywood’s Script on a Leading Man

Hailee Steinfeld in "The Edge of Seventeen"
Being that lazy piece of trash that I am, I left this review until literally the last minute. It comes out tomorrow, and I’m sitting here with my laptop perched precariously on stack of pillows on my bed typing out this review. I haven’t written anything on this site in almost half a year and have pulled myself together enough to write something about STX Entertainment’s “The Edge of Seventeen” because it’s a film that recently, really struck a chord with me.
In essence, this movie is every angsty Simple Plan song ever – but on screen. “Welcome To My Life” could back every awful mishap that seems to find Hailee Steinfeld’s character, Nadine. It’s almost difficult to articulate just how #teen this movie is. However, it manages to do so in a painfully nostalgic way. My former teenage soul shriveled up because of how relatable this movie was. In short, the movie is a hilariously honest look into teenage angst – including the odd friendship that certain weird kids have with their favorite teacher. Shout out to my 6th grade English teacher, Miss Shinagawa. None of this however, is what hit home for me with this movie.
I was able to see the movie a few weeks ago at an early screening held by one of my favorite entertainment organizations, CAPE – the Coalition for Asian Pacific islander in Entertainment. In fact, at said screening, I sat directly behind the reason I decided to write this post after almost 6 months of pure nothingness. Hayden Szeto.
Hailee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto share a moment in "The Edge of Seventeen"
Hayden hilariously takes on the role of the awkwardly confident and courageous Edwin Kim, the romantic lead of the film. Yeah, that’s right. An Asian dude is the romantic lead in this coming of age story. I would say that I can’t remember the last time that happened – but considering that Asians only get 1% of speaking roles in Hollywood, of course I fucking remember the last time I saw this. It was Leonardo Nam in “The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants.”  (Sidenote: Technically, this means that both leads are AAPI. Steinfeld is part Filipino. We’re coming up, y’all. Slowly but surely.)
Not only was the romantic lead Asian, he was everything society is hellbent on assuring us that Asian men aren’t. He has this weird, quirky, blind confidence in his pursuit of Nadine. Edwin is funny, quick- witted, and charming. Basically, everything a 16 year old boy wishes he was. Even more than all of these things, Szeto’s performance as a swoon-worthy leading man was great. He approached some of the more racially charged lines with a humorous honesty that truly reflects the young Asian American experience.
Hailee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto talk about their weekend in "The Edge of Seventeen"
The complete non-issue of Edwin’s ethnicity in this movie is such a beacon of hope for the direction of entertainment. Granted we still have things like “Doctor Strange” and “Ghost in the Shell” which are guaranteed box office hits, erasing as many Asians as they can. Baby steps, I guess. This movie gives me hope though. Now, I’m just going to plea with other Asians to see this movie in theaters. Speak with your dollar, I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy it.

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