Edge Of Seventeen Movie Review

It's such a relief to see, every once in a while, a coming-outmovie in which nobody gets beaten up by sexually insecure athletes or skinheads.

"Edge of Seventeen" is such a movie. It has itsjocks and jerks, of course, but they're extras, regulated to only makingsnide comments in passing while the film focuses on telling a gratifyinggay Everyman story instead of recycling social espousements.

Yes, it's yet another shy gay guy in high school story,a la the recent "GetReal" (those in certain circles know fullwell how common this genre has become), but this one has more convincingboy-next-door characters than most, and a very smart hook -- it takes placein 1984, at the height of '80s androgyny (fabulously cheesy soundtrackalert!).

The very strong cast of almost complete unknowns is leadby Chris Stafford as Eric, a soft-featured, Peter Brady-type, Sanduskysuburbanite who begins to explore both his sexuality and his Brit-pop fashionsense during the summer before his senior year in high school.

A bit of a nondescript, blend-in-with-the-woodwork kindof guy, he begins to show a little flourish when he gets a Chris Isaachairdo, and soon thereafter gets naked with the appropriately-named Rod(Anderson Gabrych), a bottle blonde, college boy co-worker at his amusementpark summer job who brings Eric "out" before taking off backto university and losing his phone number.

Somewhat brokenhearted by the uber-Preppie beau (rememberdouble-Izods?), Eric tries to retreat to heterosexuality with his reliableand devoted best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes), before giving in completelyto the Bronski Beat and going full-blown flamboyant -- eyeliner and rouge;two-tone orange-blonde, in-the-eyes bangs; and a Duckie-from-"Prettyin Pink" wardrobe.

Obviously an autobiographical effort for writer Todd Stephens,"Edge of Seventeen" is a refreshing, reassuring gay kid movie.It shows Eric with a loving, if hesitant, family and a good support groupof off-kilter friends, including his brassy lesbian boss (stand-up comicLea Delaria -- think John Belushi with boobs) who introduces him to Sandusky'salternative lifestyles nightlife (it has one?) at a club she operates.

Delaria is not a good actor, but she's so genuine in hersentiment toward Eric's as his mother hen guide through a world of lecherousmiddle-aged bar queens and gold-digging pretty boys that it hardly matters.

The rest of the players, though, are so natural they feellike friends. Stafford captures, in the most subtle detail, all the incubatingteenage insecurities that come with trying to figure out why you're different.His subtlety only becomes apparent in contrast with the sudden confidenceand security he feels at the gay bar, where he becomes a quick study inthe finer points of flirting.

Holmes is in some ways even better in a tough role as theadorable, endearing and put-upon Maggie, who tries and fails to keep hercrush on Eric in check while he waffles on his sexuality.

Director David Moreton has an annoying habit of transitionbetween scenes by having almost every soundtrack tune turn into ambientnoise from a radio or record player. This is cute once -- eight or ninetimes is grating. But save a few other rookie mistakes, he's helmed himselfnot only an amiable gay teen movie, but the most authentic '80s flashbackflick yet.

Comments

Edge Of Seventeen Rating

" OK "

Rating: Unrated, Friday, July 2, 1999

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