The Diary of a Teenage Girl – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Marielle Heller
Stars: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig
Minnie (Bel Powley) is the fifteen year old daughter of Charlotte (Kristin Wiig) whose marriage is long bust but she has a 35 year old boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). The place is San Francisco and the time 1976. Casual sexual encounters are part of the zeitgeist. Fifteen year old Minnie is no different to those around her. She wants to be part of the action; in short she wants to get laid. She sets her eyes on Monroe, her Mum’s boyfriend which fact is no concern of hers. After a certain amount of gentlemanly hesitation (not much), he willingly complies. The eternal triangle is created and as always with the triangle there are difficulties, exacerbated in this instance by the mother and daughter relationship.
The free-wheeling ambiance of San Francisco in 1976 (before Aids struck) is a perfect backdrop for the reveries of Minnie who spends a great deal of her time making beautifully wrought comic line drawings as she wishes to be a cartoonist. Minnie’s fantasies are heightened by the use of animation at various times. The animation is elegantly and cleverly used so there is a delightful cross over between fantasy and reality. In addition, there is a strong sense of a previous era as technologically 1976 is a long time ago and tape recorders, phones with a frontal dial and flared jeans give a sense of the past which is of course another country.
Another endearing touch is Minnie’s younger sister Gretchel, bespectacled and knowing, whose presence reminds the viewer just how young Minnie is notwithstanding her sexual awareness. Powley and Skarsgard are physically disparate. She is a mere five foot two and he is six foot four for starters. Yet their affair as told by Minnie is just about comprehensible given Minnie’s determination to participate in the free-wheeling world of sex and drugs which surrounds her. Monroe for all his physical presence is without mental substance. He just goes with the flow – a well- put-together piece of flotsam or jetsam of the male species.
The film raises uncomfortable issues about the age of consent but the story is told by Minnie and this is not an issue which appears to concern her or her friends. It is her story and she appears to be in control of it. Somehow the freewheeling backdrop of San Francisco seems to provide a licence to what is told. In a less affluent and laidback environment, the story perhaps could not take place and if it did, it could not be told or would be determinedly hidden. Minnie tells her story beautifully but it is a story which makes for unsettling viewing.
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