The Diary of a Teenage Girl
The Diary of a Teenage Girl 2015
Often I take the internet’s word for things. If something is called a graphic novel or a comic book, then I take it at its word. I added this movie to my watch list because it was listed as being based on a comic, but when I looked at the credits, I saw that it was “based on the novel”. So in rare form, I decided to check it out myself since my library had both the DVD and the original book it was based on. Personally, I wouldn’t quite call the book a graphic novel but I will still include it here on my site. It would be more apt to call it an illustrated novel with some comic pages included. There are large pictures on about every third page, and there’s about a dozen 1-3 page sequential comic book pages throughout the book that’s structured more like a diary, as the title implies. That said, it’s still a fascinating look at the life of a teenage girl in the 70’s who is obsessed with sex and jumps into that world with both feet.
There are quite a few things fascinating about this movie. One is that it does depict a teenage girl that’s obsessed with sex and doesn’t treat it like it’s a bad thing, nor does it treat it like it the hottest thing ever. It’s just treated as it should be treated in real life. There are consequences, and the consequences are all emotional rather than any unsafe sex style consequences. The main character Minnie Goetze has all these ideas and theories about the fun parts of sex, goes out to experience them for herself, and isn’t always happy with the results. Like when Minnie and her friend have a playful talk about the allure of being a prostitute, but the end result is a feeling of sickness and shame after giving a couple five dollar blow jobs in the bathroom.
The same is also true with the main relationship arc of the movie between Minnie and her mother’s boyfriend Monroe. There’s a hint of the forbidden love situation where both of them know that it’s not something they should be doing, but each of them are getting something out of it. And it’s all shown from the perspective of Minnie so we get to see it from a more positive perspective than we might have otherwise. But there’s still plenty of moments where even she realizes that what they are doing is wrong, and there’s a question of who is manipulating who or who is taking advantage of who. In objective terms, Monroe is quite obviously doing something wrong, but he’s rarely shown in a negative light.
The performances are all well done, Bel Powley is great as the average looking teenager. The film downplays her looks, but she also spends quite a bit of time topless, but not in an overly sexualized way. The nakedness is portrayed more as natural and matter of fact. Kristin Wiig as her mother plays a somewhat thankless role, but she handles the 70’s mother who had a kid too young and doesn’t want to give up her partying lifestyle well. You can see the line where Minnie would hold some resentment towards her mother, but there is still some love there. Alexander Skarsgard also handles a similar tightrope well to make him someone that you like even though you don’t really like what he’s doing. The rest of the cast is handled well enough, but no one else really moves past being a one-dimensional character.
The look of the film also helps sell the graphic novel portion of the origin through its many animated flourishes. It helps that Minnie is also trying to become an artist herself and is often seen drawing in a very caricatured and grotesque way, in the style of Aline Kominsky who was a part of the underground comix scene of the time. The animation is usually a punctuation on her diary – which is an audio diary in the film rather than a traditional written diary in the book – that also helps to bring some additional comedy in contrast to the drama.
Another big selling point of this film is that not only is the main character female, but the writer, and screenwriter/director are also women. Something that’s an unfortunate rarity within movies in general, but especially with comic book movies. It is interesting to contrast this movie against Blue is the Warmest Color, as both films are about the sexual coming of age of their protagonist, they both downplay the attractiveness of their lead, and both main characters have bisexual experiences. But this film feels much more like it has a woman’s perspective in mind rather than a male perspective, especially when it comes to the sex and the attitude towards sex. There was never a time during this movie where I felt uncomfortable watching it. If I had any complaints at all it would be that the dramatic shift towards the end of the film where Minnie headed towards a downward spiral of sex and drugs felt a little too overdramatic and rushed, but overall I really enjoyed this movie and am looking forward to finishing the novel. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.