Diary of a Teenage Girl
Starring Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard, Christopher Meloni
From actress turned writer/director Marielle Heller (A Walk Among Tombstones) comes the latest new-age, post-modern, feminist movement film that doesn’t accomplish much more than Aubrey Plaza did with raunchy comedy The To-Do List. Diary of a Teenage Girl from the very first frame is presented as an exploration into the sexual life of a 15-year-old girl growing up in mid-seventies San Francisco. The lead role, our “teenage girl,” is actually played buy 26-year-old English newcomer Bel Powley, in her first mainstream feature film performance. Kristen Wiig, in another dramatic turn for her, along with Alexander Skarsgard, infuse the project with recognizable talent. However, the focus the film remains on Powley, who is front and center or narrating every frame.
“I just had sex,” she thinks, with a smile on her face. “Somebody wants to have sex with me,” says sophomore student Minnie. Her divorced mother Charlotte (Wiig) is usually too high or too tired to notice what is going on between her boyfriend Monroe (Skarsgard) and her daughter. The 35-year-old Monroe in all his sexiness just can’t say no to Minnie’s sexual advances. Their relationships quickly becomes dangerous as Minnie’s thoughts and feelings prove to be much less mature than her body. Dealing with feelings, desires and consequences a girl her age shouldn’t have to, Minnie’s need for sexual contact and stimulation becomes so strong her entire life is at risk.
The director is careful never to glamorize sex in the film, which is very important to the overall message.
It’s somewhat ironic that the silver lining in Diary of a Teenage Girl is how dark and destructive a path the story leads Minnie. Heller goes places you would never imagine based on the opening scenes that show a young girl with a newfound sense of purpose and look on life based on that first sexual experience. We watch as Minnie matures in all the wrong ways. In what seems like the blink of an eye this artistic and creative girl becomes consumed by the need for sexual gratification and pays a high price as a result. Heller has a message here, but you have to suffer, painfully, through disturbing material to get it.
“Help, I’m being raped,” Minnie says with a smile, after coaxing Monroe to have sex with her on a boat. She was joking, but, technically speaking, she was correctly describing the destructive relationship we watch play out over the course of the film. In the recent film Cop Car, two ten year old boys aim guns at each other while wearing bullet proof vests, unaware of the danger of such action. Minnie tempts Fate in much the same way, clueless of the damaging repercussions her sexual behavior will have on her future. Heller uses unabashed nude imagery of both sexes to illustrate how inundated Minnie is with sexual stimulation. The director is careful never to glamorize sex in the film, which is very important to the overall message. Diary of a Teenage Girl certainly isn’t the first film to tackle the consequences of teenage sex, and other films An Education for example, did it so much better.
Agonizing to endure, despite it’s useful lessons on teens and sex that’s hardly revolutionary.