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THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (review)

diary_of_a_teenage_girlTHE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL

Written and Directed by Marielle Heller / Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Meloni

“I had sex today. Holy shit.” Utters fifteen-year-old Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) in voiceover as she strolls through a park. Minnie moves in slow motion while Dwight Twilley Band’s “Looking for the Magic” plays overtop. We see a topless women sitting on the grass smoking, while staring at the awkward Minnie. This is San Francisco in 1976.

Minnie’s life is changed when she sleeps with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), who she describes as “the handsomest man in the world”. She quickly falls in love with Monroe, and the two attempt to carry on an affair unbeknownst to her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). Through her relationship with Monroe, Minnie’s interest in sex skyrockets. She looks at her body in ways that she never has before, and discovers her own sexual prowess. Thus, the still young Minnie, in love with a man in his late thirties, begins her life as an adult.

What is so fascinating about Marielle Heller’s THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is the way in which it deals with the relationship between Minnie and Monroe. It is clear to the audience that Monroe is taking advantage of the seemingly precocious teenager, but the film is set in Minnie’s point of view, so this is never discussed. Heller is trying to show what it is like to be in love when you are fifteen, and through Minnie’s frequent diary entries, does so in an exemplary fashion.

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The plot presented here is not exactly original. We’ve seen the “teenage girl in love with older man” scenario plenty of times in films such as FISH TANK and AN EDUCATION. What really carries this film is Powley’s performance. The relatively unknown Brit completely gives herself over to Minnie’s transformation. We see Minnie become a changed woman not only through her dialogue, but also in the way that Powley carries the character. Her posture changes and Powley’s eyes go from curious to ravenous as soon as Minnie’s desire takes over. It also helps that Powley is surrounded by an incredible supporting cast. Skarsgård, complete with creepy 1970’s moustache, uses his charm to draw in the audience, just as he does the young Minnie. Wiig is also surprisingly incredible. The comedienne has been showing off her dramatic chops over the past few years, but DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL shows her finally mastering them. Wiig is not given much to do for most of the film, but when her character is crucial she chews the scenery in a viciously beautiful manner.

One thing that is rather annoying about the film is Heller’s use of animation. The film is based off of a graphic novel, so Heller’s decision to use moving versions of Minnie’s drawings seems to make sense, but that does not mean that it actually adds to the film. If anything, this animation recalls THE F WORD, in which it was also used to no avail. While the animations are completely relevant to both the film and Minnie’s character, they do become annoying after a while, and the film would perhaps be better off without them.

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THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL often features some wonderful writing and showcases stunning performances by Powley and her supporters. At times the film does in fact show glimmers of greatness, but this is dampened by its well seasoned plot and frustrating use of animation. That being said, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is a fascinating film, and is definitely worth exploring.

3.5 sheep

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