A Review by Paul Harrington
One day a couple weeks ago, my mother came home and told me about a movie she heard about on NPR and wanted to go see. It was called The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Upon further research I found that it was based on the semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. Not only that, but Kristen Wiig was playing one of the main characters! Ok, now it had my interest. So this past Friday, my mother and I went to go see if the hype surrounding this movie was warranted. And Oh. My. God.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows Minnie, played by Bel Powley, a 15 year old girl living in San Francisco in 1974 (coincidentally, my mom was the same age that year, only she lived in Oregon at the time, not California). Minnie, who wants to be an artist, and her sister are being raised by their unmarried mother, Kristen Wiig, who is a very free-spirited individual who loves to party and do drugs with friends, sometimes even with the girls present. While this is a very colorful backdrop for the movie, the actual plot is addressed in the beginning of the film when we find out that Minnie is having an affair with her mother’s 35 year old boyfriend, played by Alexander Skarsgard. From there the film is a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and lies. But at the heart of The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a 15 year old discovering her sexuality in a world where female sexuality is often stigmatized.
I give mad props to Bel Powley. She really steals the show here. I was very surprised to find out that she is actually a 23 year old British actress. She really does have the sensitivity and talent to embody an American 15 year old girl, and because of that, the movie rests on her shoulders. I cannot wait to see where her career takes her. Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard are also brilliant.
At the end of the day, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is not for the faint of heart. It is very blunt when it comes to showing sex and drug use, often going to very dark places as the situation becomes grim. But this is balanced by film’s poignancy and humor, even having some animation which just adds to its’ charm. All in all, I came out of the theater loving this film while my mother came out a little shaken by the material. I would recommend this coming of age movie if you aren’t afraid to see an unflinching depiction of a teenager’s life in the oh-so crazy and splendid year of 1974.