Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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DIR/WRI: Marielle Heller • PRO: Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Shapiro • ED: Marie- Hélène Dozo, Koen Timmerman• CAST: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christoper Meloni

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes an extremely candid and explicit look at the life of fifteen year old Minnie and her escapades in San Francisco during the Seventies.

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner it unashamedly delves deep into the psyche of Minnie(Bel Powley), the young protagonist who thinks she knows it all.

Minnie (rather stupidly) decides to keep a diary, but records it on a tape. Here, she reveals all of her deepest secrets, and misdemeanours. Her naivety is often shrouded by a sort of confidence that is derived from her insecurities. She, like most of us at fifteen, thinks she knows everything about life. This leads her down the path that the film focuses on – finding herself, through sex, and then losing herself, once again through sex.

All throughout the film I felt marginally uncomfortable; after all in our modern society a fifteen-year-old girl is very much deemed to still be a child. But in seventies San Fran, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Minnie and best friend Kimmie (Madeline Waters) spend their nights, and indeed days hopping from bars to clubs and men to women. It altogether is a case of little girls playing grown-ups, dressing and acting like they are ten years their senior.

But this play-acting actually seems to work, and Minnie is successful in living a life years older than her age. She wants to have control of her life, and decides to begin an illicit affair with her mother Charlotte’s (Kristen Wig) boyfriend Monroe. There are times where he is taking advantage of her youth. But, then there are other occasions where despite her youth, Minnie appears to be in total control. She brags about her escapades, and feels very little guilt about her wrong doings. This is a mixture of naivety and arrogance that Powley plays brilliantly. I was quite relieved, however, to discover that the actress is 23, and nowhere near as young as Minnie.

Her mother, Charlotte is somewhat a victim of the sixties. Left behind from the counterculture, and lost in her thirties, she seems almost jealous of Minnie. The pair share a relationship more akin to sisters, or friends. This is perhaps why the affair with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) begins. The lines between relationships and ages are blurred. Minnie thinks and acts as though she is older, and Monroe acts as if he is still a teenager himself.

Whilst there are constant undertones of wrong-doing on the part of the older men Minnie liaises with, for the most part, she uses her age to her advantage. Manipulating and seducing Monroe in every way possible, she is very aware of her own sexuality, even at a very young age. This is connected to her mother’s hedonistic, partying life-style. We frequently see Minnie and her mother’s friends partying and taking drugs together – they treat her as a counterpart, as opposed to a child.

The use of Gloeckner’s animation in The Diary of a Teenage Girl help delve deeper into the depraved psyche of an emotional yet highly talented teenager. Minnie‘s mind never ceases, it is always thinking and contemplating. The animated versions of her thoughts are insights into her mind and the often explicit drawings also help to portray Minnie in a different light – she has an incredible raw talent, which she uses to express herself through art.

The real surprise of this film was Kirtsten Wiig’s performance. Taking a well needed step away from comedy, she proves her ability to act diversely, and plays the role of Charlotte believably and honestly. She is selfish, but needy. She, like Minnie, has grown up too fast and now she seems lost, with a heavy reliance on alcohol. Monroe seems to be just another bad choice for her. She consistently encourages Minnie to grow up and to use her to use her sexuality to get what she wants, and naturally Minnie, being naive but highly intelligent, does so.

This film evokes numerous emotions. It made my life at fifteen seem very boring! But more importantly, it emphasises just how different culturally and socially the seventies in San Francisco are to now. If it were set today, Monroe would almost certainly be accused of statutory rape. But as with Led Zeppelin, and the many bands of the day, it was almost deemed acceptable for teenage girls to throw themselves at middle aged men. It is hard to comprehend how this is so. It is not a film about abuse, it looks at teenage sexuality in an unusual way, from a different perspective that we are not used to. Despite it seeming wrong, it is her choice and she is not forced into anything.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is totally unique. It is honest as well as over the top but in a way that works well to portray the erratic and self-absorbed mind of an eccentric teenage girl.

Katie Kelly

18 (See IFCO for details)
101 minutes

The Diary of a Teenage Girl  is released 7th August 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl – Official Website

 

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