Monday, August 31, 2015

[Review] The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Donning a unique mixture of elements reminiscent of The To-Do ListFish Tank, and even Blue Is The Warmest Color, this blissfully frank and very R-rated coming-of-age film The Diary of a Teenage Girl certainly delivers on what is advertised.

San Francisco 1976, (there's bellbottoms everywhere!) we meet Minnie (Bel Powley), a 15 (and a half) year old high school student. She's hyper-observant, curious, and her mind is bombarded with mixed thoughts and feelings about love & sex. At the opening, she proudly proclaims "I had sex today, holy shit!" via her intimate narration (she records a lot of personal details onto cassettes). The film starts out light and comedic in tone, but some uncomfortable undertones set in when we find out that the person she lost her virginity to is Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard)--the skeezy 35-year-old boyfriend of her druggy mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), even though it's mutual.

The narrative is less of a well-rounded story and more of a series of sexual experiences followed by diary entries, awkward tip-toeing around, and a matter of waiting until Minnie's mom finds out and shit hits the fan. Minnie is an avid doodler and aspiring cartoonist, so a lot of her graphic (I mean graphic) drawings actually leap off of the page and animate within the live, grainy and retro interior-design-gone-wild settings, making for some visual spunk.

Kristen Wiig is great here, continuing to delve into more serious roles as of late. Bel Powley gives a brilliant triumph of a performance on multiple fronts. Aside from her exuberant line deliveries and wide range of emotion, the camera focuses heavily on her huge blue eyes, which manage to convey her confusion and constant musings. The character undergoes some major internal and table turning transformations. Between writing off her distant father and a late acid-fueled sleepover scene where Monroe is practically reduced to a child crying in her arms, Minnie begins to realize that she doesn't need to depend on a man in her life, and it's an empowering moment.

The problem is that the narrative gets overly repetitive for a big chunk of the midsection. Stuff is happening, but it feels like a stagnant zone. So, you're more than likely to come away admiring the performances and the concluding resonation of themes, rather than the entire picture.


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