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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Movie Review - The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Madeleine Waters, and Christopher Meloni
Directed by Marielle Heller

San Francisco.  1976.  Fifteen year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) has just lost her virginity, finding herself newly sexually awakened, but still unsure of her beauty and worth in the world. Complicating things ever so slightly is the fact that Minnie was deflowered by her mother's boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) which, despite the obvious "ick" factor, leads to complications keeping this from Minnie's bohemian and laid-back mom/Monroe's girlfriend Charlotte (Kristen Wiig).  Minnie soon finds herself exploring not only her sexuality, but also the drug-fueled landscape of the 1970s which makes the young teenager even more of an emotional mess.

A dramedy of sorts, The Diary of a Teenage Girl - the debut of writer-director Marielle Heller - is a strangely uncomfortable watch...but I guess that's partly the point.  As Minnie explores her teenage years, the audience feels her confusion right alongside her.  Twenty-four year-old Bel Powley does a great job of showing the conflicted, carefree, and emotionally befuddled mind of a teenage girl who sees no great problem in falling for a man two decades her senior.  Monroe is never made out to be a sleazy guy by either Heller or Alexander Skarsgård and your mileage may vary as to whether you agree with that interpretation or not.  For all intents and purposes, he's a pedophile, but this film never makes that law-breaking its driving force -- or any force, for that matter.  While certainly treated with the emotional baggage that such an odd relationship would carry, you do find yourselves sometimes questioning the way the connection between Minnie and Monroe is portrayed.

Ultimately, The Diary of a Teenage Girl never quite clicked with me.  While Powley is captivating and capable of carrying the hefty film on her shoulders, I was never drawn in to her character's plight.  I think part of the reasoning for this is that her initial exploration into her sexuality was treated with humor and lightness.  When the film switches to a more serious tone -- the time when I really thought I should be "feeling" for Minnie -- I never connected on an emotional level with the characters.  Perhaps it was the tonal switch or perhaps it was just some unconscious voice in my mind saying that "she got what was coming to her," but despite wanting to become invested in Minnie, I never got there.  That said, the film shows promise for writer-director Heller and places young Bel Powley on the map of up-and-coming actresses.  Here's hoping for a bit more solid cinematic contributions in their future.

The RyMickey Rating: C+

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