Edge of Seventeen is a perfect complement to Get Real,
although, the American film concentrates more on the process
of "coming out" and its ramifications. Generally I get wary when
movie makers set films in the recent past in order to create a
cool soundtrack and have the characters wear groovy costumes.
But in this case, I was swept along by the story. As it is
autobiographical, Todd Stephens set the film in 1984 in
Sandusky, Ohio, which is hardly an overused location for
movies. Eric (the charming Chris Stafford) and his girlfriend
Maggie (Tina Holmes channeling a younger incarnation of Meryl
Streep) are off to work at the local amusement park (Cedar
Point in real life) where they are relegated to the low spot of
working as food servers. The doyenne of the eatery is the
tart-tongued Angie (Lea DeLaria) and there are numerous
other co-workers passing the summer. In relatively rapid
succession, Eric meets the studly Rod (Andersen Gabrych)
who makes clear from the start that he's gay. Eric is flustered
at first but finds himself drawn to Rod and before the summer's
over, they go on a "real date"--burgers and fries at a drive-in
and a romp in the sack at the local motel.
Just when you think Edge of Seventeen is going to turn
into another love story, though, it detours into other areas.
Summer's over. Rod returns to school and Eric finds himself
increasingly confused. He has come to the realization that he is
gay but has to hide it. Luckily for him, though, this is the era of
Culture Club, Bronski Beat and Thompson Twins. He begins to
adopt more flamboyant clothing, takes to wearing eye makeup
and tries to dye his hair blond (it turns orange). Maggie clearly
has fallen in love with him but Eric is so wrapped up in his
newfound experiences he fails to notice. At a school party, she
goes off to dance with someone else and a slightly drunken Eric
begins to dance alone--prompting the guys there to question
his sexuality. Cornered and a bit fearful, he runs off to a local
gay bar (conveniently run by Lea DeLaria's Angie in one of the
scripts few credulity-straining moments). Eric continue to
explore his burgeoning "gayness" all the while pining for Rod,
who turns out to be more Don Juan than Mr. Right.
While this is low-budget, independent movie making,
Edge of Seventeen is above average in its handling of a
delicate matter. Rather than just have the lead character come
out and find true love, Stephens and director David Moreton
focus on the growing pains and the price one sometimes has
to pay when one decides to reveal one's homosexuality.
As with Get Real, this film's success or failure lies with its
leading man and again a very gifted young actor has been cast.
Chris Stafford is nothing short of amazing in this role--skillfully
negotiating all the pitfalls and terrors, the emotional roller
coaster of the coming out process. He dominates the film as he
should and offers a beautiful, nuanced performance. Like Ben
Silverstone, he is one to watch in the coming years.
Matching him are three superlative females. Lea DeLaria
is terrific as a sort of lesbian den mother and she displays a
warmth that has hitherto been unseen in her stand-up
performances. Even better are Stephanie McVay as Eric's
mother, a salt-of-the-earth, sacrificing type who has difficulty
accepting that she didn't do something wrong in raising her
child, and Tina Holmes as Eric's friend Maggie who already
appears to have the technique which allows several emotions
to float across her face without uttering a word. One's heart
goes out to her as she gradually realizes that Eric's interest
in odd clothes and makeup and men is not a passing phase.
She earns audience sympathy through understatement and
As predatory Rod, Andersen Gabrych looks the role, with
his buff body and dyed blond hairdo, but he leans toward
posturing rather than performing. As this is his first major film
role, I'm willing to reserve total judgment on his abilities
though. Edge of Seventeen is a welcome entry into the
"coming out" genre of gay movies, in part for its unrelenting
and candid examination of the gradual process one undergoes
as well as for its strong central performance.
MPAA Rating: None
|EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
|Copyright 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.