October 24, 2016

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård

I work with teenagers. And most days, I love it. They are impulsive, they are overly emotional, and they make terrible decisions. Seriously terrible decisions. But they are also refreshingly honest, sweetly vulnerable, and mostly optimistic. This movie is the epitome of teenage angst. Portrayed in a completely disturbing way, of course.

Minnie is a 15-year-old in 1970's San Francisco who decides she is grown up enough to start an affair with her mother's 30-something boyfriend. Everything that happens after that is basically visual birth control for anyone on the fence about having kids. It is brutal; it is raw; it is beyond uncomfortable to watch. At first I thought it was set in the 70's to make the rampant drug use (by both Minnie and her mother), child neglect, and statutory rape more...acceptable, but it turns out this story is semi-autobiographical. Which makes it more impressive and more horrifying at the same time. It's like a far less glamorous Almost Famous, if the story starred Penny Lane instead.

My usual complaint about YA fiction is that it's not quite authentic enough. It often feels sanitized, as though adults wanted to only suggest adult themes but actually portray them because [pearl clutch] think of the children! The issue with that, of course, is that teenagers are not sanitized versions of adults. They say and do very adult things, whether the adults in their lives want to accept that or not. This movie cuts to the heart of that and shows it in a very real, non-judgmental way.

Is every teenager like this? No. But are a lot of them? Yep. Or at least, they embody parts of Minnie's psyche and parts of her life. And if you want a complex movie that acknowledges that teenagers are real people, this is the best I've seen. It's a shame it almost ruined Alexander Skarsgård for me by making him a pedo with a 'stache, but on the plus side, I now know Kristen Wiig can be a serious actor.

Final word: It should come with a trigger warning. 

P.S. There is an odd, artsy drawing thing that happens throughout the movie that makes a lot more sense if you know going in that the book it's based on is a kind of a graphic novel.

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