The Diary of a Teenage Girl
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, coming-of-age drama, rated R, Violet Crown, 4 chiles
The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s opening scene is a mobile view of fifteenyear-old Minnie’s derrière as she strides proudly through a park. The first words are her triumphant voiceover: “I had sex today!” It’s San Francisco, 1976, and Minnie (Bel Powley) has quite happily lost her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). The story that follows is unique among teen sex movies. It’s graphic, boundary-busting, and gritty; it doesn’t pander to sentimentality or strike a single false note; and it’s told from a girl’s point of view. The movie looks beautiful and the acting is fantastic. It will probably upset a lot of people.
Minnie is an aspiring cartoonist living with her gorgeous, harddrinking, coke-snorting mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), and her younger stepsister, Gretel (Abby Wait). The source material is the 2002 diaristic graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, which was lauded for its hybridization of forms. The film takes a similar approach, allowing Minnie’s drawings and thoughts to become animated and even speak to her. This stylistic device is used sparingly enough to provide welcome moments of calm and reason as Minnie embarks on sexual adventures that would make Iggy Pop blush. The movie is dedicated, in voice-over, to “all the girls when they have grown.” While “nostalgic” is an inaccurate descriptor for what it feels like to hear Minnie’s ideas about men and sex and watch her encounters with a range of sexual partners — skilled and less so — the film may trigger vivid memories for many adult women. Her decisions make complete sense to her, and adult viewers’ 20/20 hindsight is implicit in the storytelling. The movie’s vision is dark enough to resemble the real lives of high-school girls who grew up fast in the city, who stayed out all night, smoked and drank, had sex without attachment — even if they desired attachment — and maybe had mothers who didn’t care enough where they were, and fathers who weren’t there at all.
Clear from the start is that creativity and independence trump the clumsy romantic fumbling of teenage boys and even the cool rocker guys from around the scene in San Francisco. In the end, Minnie’s art is more important to her than whether or not anyone finds her attractive. She is told by several men in the movie that she is too emotional, too intense, too alive — admonitions that fall upon her like a needle scratching a record. She has increasingly less patience for the idea that she needs to calm down. Her intensity — and her intelligence, despite her naiveté, which is, at times, astounding — is what will get her through adolescence and into the future. — Jennifer Levin
I am fifteen going on ... : Bel Powley