August 7, 2015 at 8:10 am #191116
Opens this weekend with a strong 87 on Metacritic (96% RT). Even if the movie is too frank about female sexuality for major voting bodies’ tastes, expect a lot of breakthrough performance prizes for Bel Powley (she had the biggest star-is-born story out of Sundance) this season and possibly for debut filmmaker Marielle Heller.
The more people see it the more they tend to like it, so I’ll just keep this here.August 8, 2015 at 11:48 am #191118
Really looking foward to this. Love the cast and storyAugust 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm #191119
I don’t see this film near Oscar-radar, but I’m actually rooting for it because of ibbster’s dedication about it! Good luck!August 18, 2015 at 10:14 pm #191120
“I had sex today.”
And with that opening line, ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’
begins to upend all of the cliches we see about women in the movies today. It
turns out that they actually do have a sex drive!
Brought to the screen confidently by Marielle Heller, the
film never settles into the quirky Sundance formula that it could have easily
fallen into. Instead, Heller confronts the idea that a woman’s coming-of-age is
marked by her falling in love with a boy only to get her heart broken when he
decides that the relationship is over.
Here, Minnie Goetze (played magnificently by Bel Powley) has
some agency regarding her sexual adventures. One of the better small touches in
the film, of which there are many, is when she takes control during sex with an
overeager boy, and teaches him how to “perform” (were all of the guys
in the ’70s really attractive?). Powley is utterly amazing in this role. A
lesser actress would have exuded an air of self-consciousness doing some of the
things she is asked to do, but she commits fully to the role, and the film is
wonderfully authentic because of it.
My favorite example of this is when she asks her forbidden
lover, played by Alexander Skarsgard, to take a picture of her after just
having sex. Let’s just say it is not the most flattering picture — recall how
you look when you accidentally open Snapchat from below, and you get a good
idea. Yet the character is proud of the picture, and the actress is proud of
how she looks, because there is no attempt to hide her aesthetic flaws.
But this film would not work if she didn’t have a perfect
on-screen companion to walk the line between creepy and endearing, and luckily
Skarsgard adeptly balances on it. He is alluring; we understand why she would
be attracted to him, but at the same time, there is an undercurrent of dread
when they are together. We feel a bit guilty enjoying how playfully flirty they
are together. If she was just a few years older!
When things go south following a drug trip, their
relationship grows even more complex. One of the highlights of the film is the
animated sequences sprinkled throughout the picture, and the drug scene is
probably the most beautiful. The director uses these elements of fantasy to
heighten the emotions of the protagonist (there is even a montage of animated
dicks), but somehow it makes the film even more relatable. Things seem so much
more intense when you’re a teenager! Heller pulls all of this off due to a
stellar screenplay, which is not afraid to alienate viewers with Minnie’s
repeated sexual mistakes. Maybe they’re not mistakes, though. Perhaps they are
experiences of growth.
After all, the film ends with a voice-over detailing how she
is not defined by her relationship with another guy. Yet, this feels like a
cheap feminist statement tacked on to the end of the movie in order to make the
thesis loud and clear. After spending nearly two hours with these characters,
we did not need to hear it spelled out for us.
Also problematic is Minnie’s relationship with her parents.
In a scene in a diner, one of the daughters refers to her father by his first
name. It’s a shame that this is mostly used for comedic effect, because it robs
the scene of sincerity. A more comfortable director would let the scene play
out awkwardly, and without a punchline.
Similarly, the relationship with her mother is one I
couldn’t completely buy. Played by Kristen Wiig, who is a Sundance veteran by
now, Charlotte is not so much a character as she is a means to finish the story
in a simple way. When the central development of the movie reaches Charlotte, I
was expecting a nuanced reaction. Instead, she is angry in a bar for one scene,
and then she forgives her daughter a few days later. That is not how families
work. For a film that worked so hard to offer a complex narrative, it is
slightly disappointing for it to end so neatly.
Still, even with these flaws, ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’
radiates so much confidence that it is relatively easy to overlook them.
Perhaps it is fitting that the film is a little rough around the edges —
Minnie is incredibly endearing for that exact reason.
(4/5 stars, #3 film of the year).August 19, 2015 at 5:32 am #191121
Whilst this film won’t be going to the Oscars it may find itself at the Independent Spirit Awards. A small gem with a wonderful breakout performance by Bel Powley. It took me back to my youth which I was most appreciate. Also nice to hear Heart’s Deamboat Annie being used in the film. I’ve been playing alot of Heart since see this a couple of weeks ago.August 30, 2015 at 5:20 pm #191122
One of the most honest and well needed coming of age films I have seen. Bel Powley is a remarkable breakout in this movie. She is really interesting as an actress and she never bores you with anything she does or says. The screenplay is brilliant adapted from a graphic novel of all things, keeping the look and feel of a graphic novel with beautiful sequences of animation. It’s really well written in the sense of conversations with one’s self about discovery, sex, and sexuality as a teenager and what is right and wrong when it comes to sexual thinking. Alexander Skarsgard is truly phenomenal transitioning that amazing charm he had on True Blood into the movies that has made him a force to be reckon with this performance. It’s one of the better Supporting Actor performances this year. Kristen Wiig continues to peal layers of her acting abilities in every genre she can get her hands on. She provides great comedic relief and steals the scenes she is in as she is known to do but she shows her powerhouse dramatic skills as well. For a movie about a teenage girl, I found myself really relating to the things this character asked herself about the world. Like I said, it’s truly some of the most honest writing I’ve heard in a movie in along time with The End of the Tour which I saw the night before this. The director, Marille Heller, does a terrific job with this challenging material as her directorial debut. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeves as a filmmaker. In a year where Me and Earl and the Dying Girl AND Diary of a Teenage Girl come out, the Coming of Age film genre is looking good these days and I hope we get to see more of these stories about real people and not teenagers that look like they belong on an H&M build board. 5 starsAugust 30, 2015 at 6:39 pm #191123
You didn’t have a problem with the ending?August 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm #191124
I thought it was a little abrupt and clean but I forgave it because of the overall message of the movieAugust 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm #191125
It compromised the vision of the film for me. Still, it’s a minor critique for one of my favorite films of the year.September 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm #191126
I didn’t realize this was out, let alone that it went wide for a weekend and had a super awful sub-$500 per theatre average. At least the critics liked it.September 8, 2015 at 10:07 pm #191127
It deserves to be doing better. It hurts that the target audience can’t see it in theaters because it is Rated R and no teenage girl wants to see a movie about sex with a parent. Another example of the MPAA doing bad work in the movie industry
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