Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Movie Review #301: "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" (2015)

Movie"The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Director: Marielle Heller
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Image Source
Minnie (Bel Powley) is a 15 year old aspiring cartoonist whose life takes a dramatic turn when she starts a sexual affair with her mother's (Kristen Wiig) 35 year old boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). 

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl" is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Minnie and her sexual awakening that takes place in the 1970's. This film is based on the book of the same name, which was partially inspired by actual events in the life of the author Phoebe Gloeckner.

The subject matter of the film is certainly a bit controversial since it revolves around a 15-year-old having a love affair with her mother's 35-year-old boyfriend. Bel Powley plays Minnie, and much of her life is spent thinking about sex. This is probably not uncommon due to the hormonal changes a teen is going through. Minnie isn't very good in school and she channels much of her sexual fantasies and thoughts through the cartoons she draws. These cartoons fill little interludes in the film, a very indie tactic, to bring the character's thoughts and feelings to life. The animation like the movie is based off the work of Phoebo Gloeckner, who was heavily inspired by Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Diane Noomin and others like them. Minnie certainly doesn't have a lot of positive influences around her, and this is often reflected in her drawings. Alexander Skarsgård plays the aforementioned 35 year old boyfriend Monroe, and he does a good job in the part as a smarmy, cheating partner, but also as someone who might not know he's taking advantage of Minnie until it's too late.

Kristen Wiig plays Minnie's mother Charlotte, who often spends her nights drinking and doing coke with Monroe and her friends, virtually ignoring Minnie and her sister Gretel unless they show up in the same room as her. Minnie and Gretel's stepfather is an intellectual and isn't around, except for when they need money. With parents not paying attention and a wandering mind, girls will be girls, and girls just want to have fun. Minnie's sexual encounter with Monroe leads to her becoming extremely promiscuous, which in turn, heads her into a party mentality where she, like her mother, spends her nights drinking, smoking weed, doing coke, taking acid, but also, experimenting sexually with the likes of other girls, as well as doing things in bathrooms for money just to see how it feels. This isn't a film about plot or story, but rather a character sketch about how experiences good or bad shape our lives, which is a standard for independent films. Though pretty interesting, extremely frank and definitely candid, the film is a little poorly paced and drags at points. It's hard not to when it almost completely revolves around sex. Also, the title of this movie might be misleading to some, like the woman and her very young daughter behind us in the movie theater, who just assumed this was an innocent film about a teenage girl. Remember, folks, this film is rated-R! We were hoping to like this film more than we did, and though we weren't wowed by it, the film is decent. With themes that scream to us as feminists including sexual awakening and female empowerment, there aren't many other movies like this that exist. Minnie as a character is so brutally honest about her feelings, and I don't think I was ever that honest with myself as a teenager.

To watch "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" brings about a balance of refreshing awe and provocative cringeworthiness, not because it's bad, but because it goes there by displaying themes, messages, and circumstances we're not completely used to seeing on film. Jarring might be the proper word. This film isn't for the faint of heart, but it is worth watching.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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