“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (2015)
When we initially meet 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley), she is basking the glow of having sex for the first time as she walks home. Minnie was convinced that she might never have sex, feeling that she was too ordinary looking for boys to be interested in her. She has aspirations to be a cartoonist, much like her hero, Aline Kominsky. Her first comic book (a one-panel page) is of herself as a giant plodding across the streets of San Francisco. She writes Kominsky, who she has imitated in style, sending her the comic book and asking if she uses India Ink when drawing her comics. Minnie gets home and goes to her room avoiding her little sister. Knowing that she can’t tell anyone about the fact that she just had sex, she decides to tell her story as a diary with an audio tape recorder. She pours out her hopes, dreams, and lustful thoughts with excitement and anticipation, detailing what has happened the last couple of days.
Minnie’s mom, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), is a single mom that works as a librarian. Charlotte is not your stereotypical librarian. Instead, she likes to smoke marijuana, drink heavily and dance about the apartment with her boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). Charlotte will never be “mother of the year,” in fact; she sees Minnie and her younger sister Gretel (Abby Watt) as friends or playthings, rather than her daughters. Charlotte seems determined to party as hard and as long as she can, trying to recapture her youth. The girl’s ex-stepfather, Pascal (Christopher Meloni) though pretentious, stays in the girls lives through phone calls and occasional visits.
Minnie’s world changes when her mother drunkenly goes to bed one night, leaving Monroe on the couch with Minnie. Minnie innocently snuggles next to Monroe, and he puts his arm around her, hanging down, so it slightly touches her breast. Minnie is not only convinced that Monroe did it on purpose, but that he is now interested in her. The next day, Monroe wants to go to the local bar (hey, it’s two for one night) and Charlotte wants to stay home to watch TV. Charlotte tells Monroe to take Minnie, and he reluctantly agrees. Minnie is about to go down a road that she will ultimately regret.
Writer/director Marielle Heller has created a unique film that explores the sexual awaking of a young girl who had doubts she would ever be in a relationship. Minnie was feeling like a lot of young girls, that she just wasn’t attractive enough for anyone to be interested in her. This is a film while it has great love and respect for Minnie, is full of nudity and very adult situations. Minnie is not afraid of looking at herself naked while talking to herself in the mirror about what is going on in her life. The film also can be a little dark, as Minnie gets herself into some very serious and dangerous situations. The film is not an 80s teenage “romcom” but done more in the style of recent films, like “We Are the Best!” and “Turn Me On, Dammit!” While it does have quite a bit of comedic feel to it, mostly due to Minnie’s voice overs, it still is a little unsettling seeing a 35-year-old man having sex with a 15-year-old girl. But Heller is careful not to make Minnie too much of a sexual object, but rather a young girl who is getting comfortable with sex and her body. And, while not to make an excuse, the film is set in 1976 San Francisco, where “free love” seems to be going strong from its sixties roots.
The film uses animation to its fullest, as Minnie’s drawings are continually coming to life. Whether it’s just a flower surrounding Minnie’s head as she ponders life in a bathtub, or a fully animated Aline Kominsky, who becomes something of a spirit guide for Minnie, the film makes Minnie’s world seem animated. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the camera placement is outstanding as Heller creates inventive ways to show Minnie in her environment.
The screenplay, written by director Marielle Heller, is based on a book by Phoebe Gloschner and comes across as almost as if it is the stream ofconsciousness from the teenage mind of Minnie. It’s witty, sometimes lighthearted and always treats its main character with a touch of kindness.
The cast is outstanding with Alexander Skarsgård brilliantly playing the slightly dimwitted Monroe. He isn’t a bad man as he seems to care about both women in his life; he just would rather have fun rather than think about the consequences. Kristen Wiig plays the part of the selfish Charlotte to perfection, making her character seem very vulnerable. She plays her as someone who puts her focus on the men in her life, instead of her kids. Bel Powley is an absolute gem to watch in this role. Though she was 21 when she made this film, she looks all of 15, making the film feel real. She perfectly narrates the film, giving the movie a voice that we won’t soon forget. Not only does she hold her own with two great actors in Wiig and Skarsgard; she just dominates most scenes she is in, giving us the vast array of emotions that every teenager in her first relationship goes through.
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” gives us rare look at the world of a real teenager; one moment sure of herself and the next feeling hopeless, convinced that she will never be loved. While a couple of scenes may be uncomfortable to watch, it is well worth going on this journey with Minnie as she travels through her sometimes animated world. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in Atlanta at Tara Cinemas 4
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