Movie Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl is worth a peek

1970s in San Fran? You know there's going to be sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Opens at AMC Regency 20 Brandon and AMC Veterans 24 on Aug 28.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Based on the Phoebe Gloeckner novel of the same name, The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows the intense, provocative and unwavering coming-of-age story of 15-year-old girl growing up in the mid-70s in San Francisco. Writer and director Marielle Heller has already garnered much attention for this film, being featured in the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and the New Directors/New Films.

Minnie Goetze, played by British actress Bel Powley, is slowly finding her voice in the world through exploring her own sexuality. To get an idea of how brutally honest and upfront it  gets, within the first minute of the film Minnie exclaims to us in her internal dialogue, “I had sex today. Holy shit.”

In a short recap of the events leading up to this pivotal moment in Minnie’s life, we soon find out her first lover is her mother’s boyfriend, 35-year-old Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). Minnie wants to have sex, and enjoys having sex. She wants to be loved romantically, but like most teenage girls, she stands in front of the mirror naked, picking out her physical flaws. She wonders how people see her, since she considers herself unattractive.

There are no legitimate role models in Minnie’s life. Her mom Charlotte Goetze (Kristen Wiig), lives a drug and party-riddled life, and her dad Pascal MacCorkill (Christopher Meloni), seems like the only real adult in the movie, though he doesn’t play a consistent role in his daughter’s life. The only person Minnie looks up to is the feminist cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who she starts writing to for advice.

Throughout this fast-paced film, we follow Minnie as she experiments with drugs, various sexual partners and life as a young female. Finding different creative outlets to express her thoughts and emotions, she draws the world around her in her notebook, photographs the Bay area landscape, and most notably, she records herself in voice-diaries on cassette tapes so that she may go back and listen to them when she is older (but, she says, her future husband might get jealous).

Since The Diary in book-form is a mix of graphic novel and diary elements, Heller wants to bring that multi-media experience into the film using bits of rough, hand-drawn animation by Sara Gunnarsdottir throughout the film. These animations bring Minnie’s diary doodles to life, expressively portraying how this teen views herself and the world around her.

Actress Powley explains in an interview with The Telegraph, “Obviously we’re not trying to promote an under-age girl
sleeping with a man 20 years her senior. The story isn’t about that relationship. It’s about Minnie’s coming of age, about her discovering her sexuality.” For some viewers, it may be a bit hard to get past that unsettling relationship to get to the core of the director’s intent: female sexuality tends to be brushed under the rug more often than not. Heller expressed how she wanted to show girls not as the item of objectification, but as their own powerful identities, able to enjoy and own up to their sexuality.


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