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  Diary of a Teenage Girl, The They Grow Up So Fast
Year: 2015
Director: Marielle Heller
Stars: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni, Madeleine Waters, Abby Wait, Margarita Levieva, Miranda Bailey, Carson D. Mell, John Parsons, Austin Lyon, Quinn Nagle, Davy Clemens, Anthony Williams, Susannah Schulman
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Minnie (Bel Powley) has just today actually lost her virginity and she can't believe it's happened. It is 1976 and she lives in San Francisco with her divorced mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig) and her younger sister Gretel (Abby Wait), and as she has never had a boyfriend she was thinking it would never happen to her, so when the opportunity arose she seized it because she thought she would never get another chance. However, there are complications, and the main one of those was the partner she chose - or chose her, for he was Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), a man twenty years older than she is and her mother's boyfriend to boot. As Minnie becomes aware of her sexuality, is she really taking it in the right direction?

If the thought of a thirty-five-year-old man having sex with a fifteen-year-old girl gave you feelings of extreme discomfort, then it's safe to say you would not believe Minnie was going in the right direction at all, and although the subject matter was controversial this film came around to that point of view as its protagonist wakes up to the potential of her own choices. Though not before she makes some mistakes, as was the case with many a coming of age yarn of which this was supposed to be standing out from the crowd because it took on the teenage girl as a subject rather than the more traditional teenage boy. That was the idea, anyway, though there are more films on the female angle than these filmmakers would appear to have believed.

But the aspect here that director Marielle Heller hoped would make it stand out from the crowd was a frank discussion of sex, including scenes of nudity and her cast pretending to indulge for the cameras. It should be noted that lead actress Bel Powley was not fifteen when she made this, she was twenty-two, wisely heading off any questions about the legality of such sequences, though with the seventies wardrobe and makeup she was presented in an unflattering way that made her look more gauche and inexperienced. That's the manner in which she was instructed to play Minnie as well, with the script based on Phoebe Gloeckner's autobiographical graphic (in more ways than one) novel emphasising her introduction to the adult world she may not be ready for.

The problem being, her body is telling her that sex is a great idea, but her mind just isn't prepared for the complications that brings about, and Monroe's exploitation of her serves himself more than it serves Minnie other than giving her sexual experience that may be useful in the future when she's older and wiser, but certainly isn't doing her much good when she's not even old enough to drive. This situation sends her into a weirdly lust-crazed state of mind when she is aware that if she makes herself available she can find satisfaction, or thinks she can, so she begins having sex with boys in her class as well, landing her with the reputation of the school "slut" in a manner that makes it clear those boys won't be tarred with the brush of accusations of promiscuity, double standards the film took seriously.

What it also took seriously was the downward spiral Minnie is sent into when the sex leads her to start experimenting with drugs, something according to this follows the other like night follows day, which you may quibble with. Anyway, it's the case with her that once she is denied any emotional support from Monroe because he is exposed as rather pathetic she is left floundering, and betraying her frazzled mother leaves her without that parental support too (her father Christopher Meloni is too far away in New York to talk much sense into Minnie, and even if he had been living with her it's doubtful she would have listened). Her best bet at a role model is cartoonist Aline Kominsky, for she wants to become an artist like she is, and Heller adorned the action with animations representing Minnie's drawings and strips, some of them very explicit. It was well acted, wasn't hysterical and offered food for thought, yet somehow it was a lot more conventional than it perhaps presented itself as, for there were few conclusions it drew that were as controversial as what had gone before. Music by Nate Heller.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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