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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Cinema Review: What Maisie Knew

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DIR: Scott McGehee, David Siegel • WRI: Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright •  PRO: Daniel Crown, Daniela Taplin Lundberg , William Teitler, Charles Weinstock • DOP: Giles Nuttgens • ED: Madeleine Gavin • DES: Kelly McGehee • CAST: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgård, Joanna Vanderham
 

What Maisie Knew is based on the 1897 Henry James novel of the same name. The story details the divorce of two supremely selfish people through the eyes of their young daughter. Directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee update the story for the screen.Set in contemporary Manhattan, we meet Maisie, an innocent young girl made lonely by the divorce and arguments of struggling artist parents Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan). Maisie’s saving grace comes in the odd form of instant stepparents Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) and Margo (Joanna Vanderham).The story is a slow burner as we simply follow Maisie throughout her daily routines. It is a masterful use of the “show, don’t tell” ideology as Maisie is a quiet presence throughout. This is a simple film without any of the usual tricks. What makes this movie special is that we are positioned entirely in Maisie’s viewpoint.  Events escalate, leaving us wondering why we are missing out on major moments. This might be frustrating if it weren’t for the fact that we are alongside Maisie. We don’t see and experience the adult changes in the story because Maisie doesn’t, we are positioned as a childish bystander on the periphery in the same way that she is.The standout performance here is that of our tiny protagonist. Onata Aprile is a revelation as Maisie. Whilst Onata might technically be too young to truly understand the nuances of the story she tells, it doesn’t show. Her performance betrays a talent far beyond her years.Alexander Skarsgård’s Lincoln seems almost as lost in the adult world as Maisie yet he is utterly spellbinding with her. We find ourselves entirely trusting that Maisie is safe with him even if his ignorance at the beginning does threaten to get her knocked down. Joanna Vanderham’s Margo is charming enough but it seems as though she holds something back. Whilst Skarsgård throws himself entirely into the role of Lincoln, visually embodying his nervous fish-out-of-water status, Vanderham sometimes seems static. We witness her love for Maisie, yet there is something business-like about her attitude that prevents us from fully falling in love with her character. It seems as though Margo cannot let go of her ‘nanny’ status and adopt a more natural maternal role.

Julianne Moore gives a good performance as self-centered mother Susanna, who consistently finds herself in court demanding custody of a child she abandons at any opportunity. Unfortunately her apparent aging rock star status is contrived and utterly impossible to believe. Moore does shine with Susanna’s single moment of clarity in which she sees herself through her daughter’s eyes. This is one of the film’s most powerful moments. It is just a shame that the rest of Moore’s performance is peppered with strained references to her implausible musical prowess. Steve Coogan has some funny moments as self-absorbed Beale but is largely an absent figure for us in the same way he is an absent father figure for Maisie

What Maisie Knew is not a spectacle; it is an introverted film that is in danger of slipping by largely unnoticed. Heart-warming from beginning to an ending that on paper might seem implausible or even legally questionable but somehow works. What Maisie Knew might just be the most heartfelt and genuine movie of the year with some stellar performances.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details) 

98 mins
What Maisie Knew is released on 23rd August 2013

What Maisie Knew – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The East

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DIR:  Zal Batmanglij  WRI: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling  PRO: Michael Costigan, Jocelyn Hayes, Brit Marling , Ridley Scott , Tony Scott • DOP: Roman Vasyanov  ED: Bill Pankow, Andrew Weisblum  DES: Alex DiGerlando • CAST: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Patricia Clarkson

  

When Sarah (Brit Marling) gets a pair of Birkenstock shoes from her ice cool uber-boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), she knows that this is her shot at the big time – a chance to be a real player in the shady world of corporate private intelligence. Soon enough she’s lying goodbye to her boyfriend Tim (Jason Ritter) at the airport, dying her hair in the bathroom and coming out another door – she’s not going abroad, she’s going deep undercover to find out about The East, a group of media-savvy anarchists who are targeting major corporations.

 

Soon enough she’s hanging out with hippies, travelers and crusties, but then she meets Luca (Shiloh Fernandez), who takes her to a secret hideout in the woods – the home of the charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), suspicious Izzy (Ellen Page), sympathetic Doc (Brit actor Toby Kebbell) and others – all of whom have a taste for real revenge and, despite the cult-like air and some bizarre “bonding exercises,” are no lentil-chomping dropouts: they have some serious “jams” in the planning.

 

The first corporate victims get a dose of their own medicine – literally – and then a pair of industry bigwigs are forced to take a swim in their own polluted lake. It’s an eye for an eye, and though Sarah is quickly getting close to calling in the FBI, she’s found a bond with these people – and even has some sympathy with their ideas, and the evidence she sees that made them come to the conclusion their attacks are the only way the public will take notice. It helps of course that she’s attracted to Benji, but when one of the jams costs the life of one of the members, the group goes their separate ways – but you just know Sarah is going to be asked to go back under again. Only now does she want to go back for the right reasons?

 

Marling – who also co-wrote and co-produced this with director Batmanglij (and has written two other films including the cult hit Another Earth) – is clearly a roaring talent, and here she inhabits the role of the cold-hearted, all-business operative well, perhaps too well, as this is rather a cold movie, the only person you ever really feel remotely sympathetic to being the shaky-handed, brain-damaged Doc. Also, Sarah doesn’t really have as much at stake – or has lost as much – as everyone else, which makes her harder to care about.

 

It’s also perhaps a slight disappointment when it emerges that the jams are all targeted at the parents of The East members; it’s spoiled rich kid revenge to a greater extent then, something that explains the reason they can afford high-tech gear, a nice Mercedes and walking around money: high speed web access can’t be found when you go dumpster-diving.

 

That said, the film manages to walk the line well in what’s a controversial set-up. It doesn’t fall back on such easy clichés as explosions or choose a lazy reliance on sexual jealousy/romance re: Benji, but whether it will have you cheering for revolution when you see one of the victims of their jams – a cameo by Julia Ormond, who looks so extraordinarily like Marling that I thought that would be the late twist – is another matter.

Yes the chemical companies will undoubtedly and happily sacrifice all of us in return for profit, but just as tragic is the fact that we continue to elect corrupt politicians who are enslaved to the very same companies, and so do nothing about it. And as we know, resorting to terrorism only leads to more dead and wounded, and who needs environmental protection anyway?

 

James Bartlett

116 mins

15A (see IFCO website for details)

The East  is released on 28th June 2013

The East – Official Website

 

 

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