Melbourne International Film Festival Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (USA, 2015)

We open in San Francisco in 1976. Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) has just had sex for the first time. With Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), her mother’s (Kistin Wiig) boyfriend. Based on Goets’ graphic novel memoir of the same name, The Diary of a Teenage Girl charts a dark and disturbing journey of a young woman, going through the motions of teenage experimentation with an acute and voracious sexual yearning.

But this is no Judy Blume novel, and viewers Minnie’s own age will not be allowed to see it with its 18+ rating. Minnie is fearless, experimental and ravenous for experience in an era when sexual politics were fast and loose. She’s free loving, unguarded (to the point of recklessness, really) and insightfully precocious – think Juno, Paper Towns, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, but way more confronting. As Minnie follows her impulses – and not just with the doomed sexual relationship with Monroe – things take a swift and dark turn.

Minnie is an aspiring cartoonist with both Aline Kominsky and Robert Crumb name checked, and the lewd, psychedelic of these two famed cartoonists sets the tone for much of Minnie’s own work, and overarching style of the film. Elsewhere, the film enjoys the brown and orange hues quintessential to the 70s era.

But there is something buoyant and funny in these experiences too. Told from Minnie’s perspective, the imagery of the film draws on this art form to give insight into her world and the people around her, precisely the way she sees it. and Minnie’s hilariously unaware of just how young she is, and as an adult audience we are able to see and be amused by her folly, even while being rattled by its disturbing overtones. The interruption of the cartoon overlays are a kind of buffer between Minnie and the drama, and in underplaying the darkness, they actually serve to underscore it.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running time: 102 minutes.

Diary of a Teenage Girl screened as part of Melbourne International Film Festival 2015. More information can be found HERE.

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