Overview: Fifteen-year-old Minnie Goetz records her thoughts and feelings as she enthusiastically journeys through a series of sexual endeavors. Sony Pictures Classic; 2015; Rated R; 102 minutes.
Dear Diary, I Had Sex: Minnie Goetz is not your average teenage heroine. She boldly and proudly announces during the opening credits that she has just had sex for the first time as she struts along to the beat of her own music, wondering if those around her can tell that something is different. Because, well, she feels different. And from this moment on, Minnie’s life becomes consumed with sex, and we as the audience are left to observe the tumultuous aftermath that comes paired with making adult decisions with a teenage mind and heart. This nonjudgmental, honest observation is where director Marielle Heller’s film succeeds the most, because we are required not to see Minnie as either a victim or a villain, but instead merely witness her stumble through adolescence, growing and self-identifying as she goes. Minnie displays elements of both maturity beyond her years and shocking, youthful vulnerability as she explores her sexual identity, insisting that her mother’s boyfriend must in fact be in love with her since they have consummated a sexual relationship. It’s impossible not to feel connected or nostalgic to Minnie at one point or another as she makes mistake after mistake in order to discover how to love herself first.
Just Keep Drawing: Brandon Trost’s cinematography is something to respected and admired as Minnie’s bizarre and beautiful artwork comes to life throughout the film, saturating real life with vibrant, drastic drawings that depict the way Minnie sees the world. The intricate details of both the grotesque and the gorgeous, the specific and the abstract, and the bold and the blurry paint the broad strokes of a picture that portrays the complicated adventure that is growing up.
A Family Affair: The cast of this film is nothing short of spectacular, from True Blood’s brooding Alexander Skarsgard (at his very best when he takes a terrifyingly bad acid trip) to the always impressive Kristen Wiig as the fatally flawed mother who has shaped a child into a teen who only knows how to love herself when she is being desired. But the most impressive turnout is predictably provided by Minnie herself (Bel Powley) who conveys an ocean of emotion in her big, expressive eyes that appear both seductively cocky and desperately childlike. She’s the perfect picture of the internal struggle that represents adolescence, tortured and treasured simulaltaneously.
Overall:The Diary of a Teenage Girl manages to be both provocative and uncomfortable, funny and melancholic, uplifting and sobering all at the same time. It’s honest, unapologetic, flawlessly performed, and a complex, unflinching look at female sexuality, which is no different in 2015 than it was in 1976.