The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Director: Marielle Heller
Writer: Marielle Heller
Based on: Phoebe Gloeckner‘s graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures
Cast: Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Abby Wait, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 3.11.2015
[Review by cornholio.]
Minnie (Bel Powley) lives with her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig) and her little sister Gretel (Abby Wait). Recently her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) has also spent a lot of time with them. Minnie is curious about sex and she feels some sexual tension between herself and Monroe – a tension she uses and the two of them start an affair with each other. But even though Minnie gains in confidence, unsurprisingly an affair like that isn’t exactly easy to pull off without hurting somebody in the process.
I very much enjoyed The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a wonderfully unusual coming of age story with great characters and a wonderful cast.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl has an interesting approach to Minnie’s sexuality and her affair with Monroe. Minnie is the one who initiates it and by the end she’s firmly established as the one in charge of the relationship. But while I liked that she took matters into her own hand and that she was never judged for it, I was always waiting for a little more criticism of Monroe’s part in the relationship. He does manipulate Minnie, especially in the beginning, but even worse is that he – as a grown man – says yes to her in the first place. And that is never really discussed (if I recall correctly, there was one short mention of it). I’m also a little uncomfortable with the fact that making Minnie the seductress draws unfortunate parallels to what Humbert always accuses Lolita of: that he is not to blame, he couldn’t help himself because she seduced him. (Of course, between 12 and 16 there’s a huge difference, but still.) But in this case, despite the fact that Monroe is an ass for going along with it, the sex is obviously consensual though and it’s all about Minnie and told from her perspective, so that can be overlooked. (If you want a very different treatment of this story, though, might I suggest Fish Tank?)
In any case The Diary of a Teenage Girl makes one hell of a funny film from a cringeworthy situation. The comedic timing is great, way Minnie’s relationships with her other family members were portrayed was wonderful and I really loved that the film included animations taken from Gloeckner’s graphic novel (which I haven’t read), those were awesome as well.
Above all, it was the cast who make that film work. That Kirsten Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard are wonderful comes as no surprise, but Bel Powley steals the show. After A Royal Night Out where she already impressed me, she really proves how great she is here. I can’t wait to see more of her. Speaking of which: I thought it was particularly nice that we got to see her naked here because she has such a completely normal body and not Hollywood normal, which is what we usually get to see. [Also, they should take the shot of Minnie examining her body and contrast it with the shot of Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin to really show the difference between neutral camera and male gaze.]
In any case, The Diary of a Teenage Girl was a great, entertaining and simply enjoyable film.