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2 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Edge of Seventeen
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by iF Magazine

"It has less sentiment and more common sense than most."
4 stars

Modest but bracingly honest, EDGE OF 17 is a consistently engaging gay coming-of-age tale. Writer Todd Stephens and director David Moreton balance the tone almost equally between rueful comedy and drama that will strike recognizable chords for most survivors of American adolescence.

In the summer of 1984, Eric (Chris Stafford) and his best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes) take jobs at the restaurant in their Ohio hometown's local amusement park. College-age co-worker Rod (Andersen Gabrych) immediately begins flirting with Eric. Eric responds eagerly, developing a major crush on the older boy even as he denies he's gay to the straight folks around him. This makes for particularly rough confusion with Maggie, who is clearly hoping that her genuine emotional closeness with Eric will lead to romance.

To say that EDGE OF 17 doesn't really need to be set 15 years ago is a compliment. The feelings, issues and social dynamics it addresses are as relevant now as they were in 1984. Gay teens still wrestle in isolated turmoil with awful dilemmas. Their social lives are still scrutinized by parents whose expectations they fear to counter. Idealized older crushes may respond erratically or cruelly to romantic notions, but the struggling adolescents don't dare ask for advice, sympathy or perspective from heterosexual friends of their own age who may pass negative judgment and/or have their own agendas. Arguably, the biggest difference is increased AIDS awareness today, but Eric is still cautious enough to ask his dates to wear condoms.

The filmmakers have some gentle fun with hairstyles and music of the period, but ironically, this serves to reinforce the popular '90s notion that the '80s weren''t all that culturally memorable. Oddly enough, though the Eurythmics and Bronski Beat are prominently featured on the soundtrack, we don't hear the Stevie Nicks song that share's EDGE OF 17's title. There is also one rather questionable plot device -- would any gay bar, let alone one in a small intolerant town, so readily admit and serve liquor to a minor, even one who is a friend of the owner?

Stephens' script is particularly observant when it comes to the inarticulate dance that kids can do trying to convince others -- and themselves -- that they are capable of playing a role, and how instinctively manipulative they can be if the situation demands it. The humor is always humane and the film doesn't take sides. Maggie's wistful desire to turn her friendship with Eric into a permanent commitment is depicted with the same empathy as Eric's impulsive, scared yet hopeful forays into sexual exploration.

Moreton emphasizes character development over eroticism, but his sex scenes are both inventive and profoundly suggestive, including one bit of fully-clothed foreplay that is nevertheless specific enough to make the audience sit bolt upright; the image may be a first outside the realm of adult cinema. Although the filmmakers are clearly on a tight budget, Moreton and cinematographer Gina DeGirolamo make an effort to create some beauty, even if their opportunities for this are largely relegated to establishing shots.

Stafford is lively, unforced and attractive as Eric, making the youth's thoughts and feelings clear without overemphasizing the beats. Holmes as Maggie is deeply likable despite the character's ignorance; it helps that the actress bears an uncanny resemblance in her face and in her gestures (though not her coloring) to the young Meryl Streep. Lea DeLaria is bawdily funny and warm as a lesbian club owner who takes Eric under her wing to the extent that he'll allow it and Stephanie McVay is straightforward and powerful as Eric's mightily worried mom.

EDGE OF 17 is not the all-purpose entertainment of a big-budget romp like IN AND OUT, but as a coming-out tale, it has less sentiment and more common sense than most.

Eric's thrashings between love, lust and comradeship have elements that will ring true for most viewers, gay or straight, who remember similar conflicts from their own high school days. -- ABBIE BERNSTEIN - iF Magazine (

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originally posted: 06/29/99 16:58:49
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User Comments

6/12/18 nobuo810 This is the definitive coming out story film! One of my favorites! 5 stars
12/07/03 Cassandra Great movie! I've watched it numerous times. 5 stars
6/23/01 . . 5 stars
4/04/01 Taylor Donovan True-to-life, great depiction of coming out and all the follows it. 5 stars
2/20/01 will it was a great film never seen anything like it, i love it. Love Andesen Gabrych hottie 5 stars
10/18/00 Evie Wonderful, poignant, hilarious, satisfying 5 stars
9/09/00 neilb nice coming out/coming of age story. THe 8os sucked! 4 stars
9/27/99 Tracy Colavito Awesome movie. Totally loved it. 5 stars
9/25/99 J Wolf Realistic movie!!! 5 stars
8/18/99 Rodney Duke Can't Wait To Own It. Excellent 5 stars
8/14/99 Godot64 I came out in 1984, I was (yes) 17. I realy related. 4 stars
8/10/99 Renny Glover great cast ...very authentic 5 stars
6/23/99 Brenna Young I love this film 5 stars
6/12/99 Mr Showbiz The best gay coming-of-ager EVER. 5 stars
6/12/99 Daniel One of the Best since Beautiful Thing. Great Chris Stafford and a very good story 5 stars
5/29/99 Joe Outstanding film... BRAVO 5 stars
5/28/99 Aaron A good gay coming-of-age story 4 stars
5/26/99 Jason Made me wistful and sad and nostalgic and homesick in the best way. 5 stars
5/22/99 i love indi films!! loved it, heart warming 5 stars
5/19/99 Mr Newsgroup an exceptional film: honestly written, very well-acted, beautifully filmed. 4 stars
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Directed by
  David Moreton

Written by

  Chris Stafford
  Tina Holmes
  Andersen Gabrych
  Lea DeLaria
  John Eby

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