Take a Drink: for creepy animation
Take a Drink: for straight up pedofilia, yo
Take a Drink: for substance abuse
Do a Shot: for heartbreaking naivety and insecurity
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
You know those corny abstinence-pushing sex ed videos that are a staple (or just all) of teenage sexual education in most (South, Central) parts of the United States? Okay, how about those anti-drug commercials using a strange mixture of fear and hilarity to dissuade kids from toking up? Well, combine both of them with a disturbingly plausible indie coming of age flick, and you have yourself The Diary of a Teenage Girl.
A bit lighter on Jonathan Banks talking about menstruation than I’d prefer, but you can’t have everything.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is that precisely, narrated by the sensitive, precocious Minnie as she undergoes a sexual awakening, and also suffers the consequences of having really horrendously shitty parents and adult influences.
The acting is nearly uniformly superb, which makes the film that much more affecting and spectacularly depressing (don’t let the sun-kissed finale fool you). You see, the film begins with 15 year old Minnie telling us she had sex today (via expertly deployed voiceover), with… her mother’s 35 year old boyfriend Monroe (a tremendously skeevy and impressively layered Alexander Skarsgard). Bel Powley, in only her second film, gives a masterful depiction of a young girl wondering what it means to be loved, and looking for it in all the wrong places.
Hint: if it’s sporting a mustache like that, it’s the wrong places.
Writer/director Marielle Heller’s script is almost disturbingly perceptive, darkly funny, and somehow still admirably sex-positive…ish. She also displays poise and skill in her debut, particularly in her use of editing and music, and while not all of her more fanciful reality-bending touches work, some of them, like Minnie’s star-strewn bedroom, really, really do.
Some, however, do not. Heller’s clearly taken with the San Francisco underground comics scene, particularly Aline Kominsky, of Twisted Sisters fame. This style (think Robert Crumb- Kominksy’s spouse and collaborator, not that this movie’s thesis has any time for them true facts) is very much an acquired taste, one which I haven’t. By the fifth or sixth fugly animated interlude I kind of doubted I ever would.
Kristen Wiig, playing Minnie’s mother, has some strong scenes, but also more than a few that feel like they’re coming from a different, potentially Will Ferrell-co-starring, Lifetime-sponsored film. She’s also a objectively godawful parent, which makes the upbeat, “us girls need to stick together” ending that much more disingenuous.
This brings us to the principal issue with the film- it’s so thoroughly depressing it’s almost comical. Seriously, if they showed this thing in classrooms instead of the usual mix of finger wagging and tumescent bananas, teen pregnancy rates would plunge by half. Minnie bounces from one love and approval-seeking terrible decision to another, until she literally ends up a (maybe) 16 year old getting pimped out to junkies by her heroin-addicted girlfriend because she refuses to marry her mother’s (ex?)-boyfriend (who statutory-everythinged her) at her mother’s insistence. Nevermind the fact that the film will also play like Pedofilic Apologetics 101 to the Fogleses of the world- that’s their problem.
“She really wanted it- she’ll tell you herself” is still not a defense.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a very well made, very well acted downer of massive proportions.