(I’m currently in the process of cleaning out my DVR! It’s going to take me forever because I have like absolutely no self-control and I’ve got over 150 things to watch! For instance, I recorded Girl On The Edge off of Showtime on February 19th!)
Hannah Green (Taylor Spreitler) is a 15 year-old dancer and is even more troubled than the typical teenage girl. She is struggling to deal with her parent’s divorce. Her father, Hank (Gil Bellows), has remarried and, though loving, he doesn’t know how to talk to his daughter. After the manipulative Tommy (Shane Graham) rapes her at a party and pictures of her are posted online, Hannah stops dancing and descends into depression, self-harm, drugs, and alcohol. With no idea what to do, her father and stepmother stage an intervention and send Taylor to a “healing center,” a ranch in the wilderness where Hannah and other troubled girls attend therapy sessions, take care of horses, and hopefully, begin the process of recovery.
Girl on the Edge actually feels like two movies that, when smashed together, make for something of an awkward fit. The better of the two movies deals with Hannah and how her stay at the ranch affects her. At first, Hannah is resistant to the discipline. She resents being told what to do and, most heart-breakingly, even risks getting expelled from the program so that she can attempt to contact the boy who raped her. (“Kill yourself slut,” he writes back.) Taylor Spreitler gives such a good performance as Hannah that, at times, it was difficult for me to watch. When I was sixteen, I was rebellious and angry. I knew Hannah’s pain and, even more importantly, I also knew her anger. Spreitler’s performance is matched by Peter Coyote, playing the tough-minded founder of the ranch, and the late Elizabeth Pena, who played Hannah’s therapist.
But then there was the second film, which was basically Hank sitting around and feeling guilty. And don’t get me wrong. Gil Bellows gives a good performance as Hank. There are a lot of scenes where Hank is silent and lost in thought but, just through his posture and the sadness in his eyes, Bellows shows us exactly what’s going on inside of Hank’s mind. Hank ends up confronting Tommy at the ice cream parlor where he works. He also ends up confronting Travis Lee (Rex Lee), the sleazy head of the company that created the app that Tommy used to stalk Hannah online. Rex Lee, who is probably best known for playing Jeremy Piven’s assistant on Entourage, gives an over-the-top and rather cartoonishly evil performance. It feels thoroughly out-of-place, especially when compared to the more naturalistic performances of … well, of everyone else in the cast.
Even if I’m not a huge fan of rehabilitation centers, I am a huge fan of movies about out-of-control teenagers so I enjoyed that aspect of Girl on the Edge. I think, ultimately, the main reason why this film works is because it’s a very sincere movie. Cynicism is not to be found in this film’s DNA. You can tell that the filmmakers really believed in the movie’s message. Everyone’s heart was in the right place and that goes a long way towards helping the film get over a few rough patches. Girl on the Edge has its flaws. Some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose. Occasionally, you do wish that it had been directed with a slightly more subtle touch. But, ultimately, this is one of those movies that is so well-intentioned that it feels a bit petty to get too snarky.
Sometimes, you just have to be willing to appreciate a little sincerity.