Friday, April 29, 2016

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Based on the graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is the story of a 15-year old girl who becomes sexually active when she begins an affair with her mother’s new boyfriend. Written for the screen and directed by Marielle Heller, the film is a coming of age tale set in mid-1970s San Francisco where a young woman tries to deal with her thirst for sex as she would tell her story in a diary filled with audio tapes and art. Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig, Austin Lyon, Madeleine Waters, Margarita Levieva, and Christopher Meloni. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a riveting and witty film from Marielle Heller.

Set in 1976 San Francisco, the film revolves around a 15-year old girl whose fascination with sex has her losing her virginity and having an affair with mother’s new boyfriend as she embarks into a journey of self-discovery through sex. It’s a coming-of-age film that says a lot about what a teenage girl would go through in her discovery of sex as she would express her feelings and views through drawings, audio tape diaries, and comics. Marielle Heller’s screenplay is quite loose in the way it tells the journey that Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) would go through as she is someone that is very gifted in her drawing but also na├»ve in thinking that losing her virginity and having sex makes her a woman. By having losing her virginity and having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), Minnie thinks she is in love as she tries to hide the affair from her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). Eventually, things get complicated where Minnie would have her own revelations about herself and Monroe as she tries to understand everything through her art.

Heller’s direction is very imaginative for not just the way she would fuse animation into live-action settings but also in re-creating 1976 San Francisco without doing a lot given that it’s made on a small budget as it is shot on location in the city itself. Heller’s usage of wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into the look of the city but also in how Minnie sees the world such as a shot of her on a bench looking at the city itself. There are some close-ups in the film as it relates to Minnie’s own reaction to herself or how Monroe tries to end the relationship when he realizes he couldn’t. The mixture of live-action and animation where much of the drawings are made by Sara Gunnarsdottir play into Minnie’s own imagination and view of the world where it has a sense of fantasy but also elements of surrealism. Even as the drawings Minnie would make would say a lot about herself and her growing awareness on sex as the animation would also express that growth in her as it relates to what she needs and why sex shouldn’t be complicated. Overall, Heller creates a sensational and captivating film about a young girl’s sexual awakening.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of stylish and low-key lights for many of the interior scenes including the ones at night along with the beautiful scenery for the exterior scenes in the day. Editors Marie-Helene Dozo and Koen Timmerman do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some bits along with montages and other elements that help play into the humor and drama. Production designer Jonah Markowitz, with set decorator Susan Alegria and art director Emily K. Rolph, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Minnie, her mother, and sister live in as well as the look of Minnie‘s bedroom with her drawings as well as a poster of punk legend Iggy Pop. Costume designer Carmen Grande does nice work with the costumes as it play into the period of the mid-1970s with its bellbottoms, skirts, and the clothes that Monroe would wear including jogging shorts.

The hair/makeup work of Anouck Sullivan and Jennifer Tremont is terrific for the look of some of the characters in the hairstyle along with the makeup Minnie and her friend Kimmie would wear at a midnight screening for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sound designer Kent Sparling does superb work with the way some of the parties sound as well as in the sound effects that are created through Minnie‘s drawings. The film’s music by Nate Heller is wonderful as it is this mixture of rock and ambient music that play into the period of the times as the music soundtrack, that is assembled by music supervisor Howard Paar, features an array of music from the Stooges, Heart, Mott the Hoople, Nico, Television, T. Rex, Dwight Twilley Band, Banditas, the Rose Garden, Amy Raasch and David Poe, Labi Siffre, Barbara & the Browns, and Frankie Miller.

The casting by Nina Henninger is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Miranda Bailey and John Parsons as friends of Monroe and Charlotte, Susanne Schulman as the voice of the famed comic artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Quinn Nagle as a schoolmate of Minnie in Chuck, Austin Lyon as a popular junior named Ricky Wasserman whom Minnie would have sex with, and Abigail Wait as Minnie’s younger sister Gretel who becomes disapproving towards her sister’s crazy antics. Madeleine Waters is terrific as Minnie’s friend Kimmie who is just as sexually-outgoing while trying to understand the ideas of sex itself along with her own beauty. Margarita Levieva is superb as the lesbian Tabatha as this older woman of sorts Minnie would meet later in the film as she would take Minnie to a world that is very dark.

Christopher Meloni is excellent as Minnie’s stepfather Pascal who only appears in a few scenes as he is concerned about Minnie as well as Charlotte’s own well-being where he is totally aware of Charlotte’s major flaw as a person. Kristen Wiig is amazing as Charlotte as Minnie’s bohemian mother that is trying to live her life and be responsible as she has trouble trying to balance both where she eventually becomes suspicious towards Monroe. Alexander Skarsgard is fantastic as Monroe as Charlotte’s new boyfriend who finds Minnie attractive where he is reluctant in having sex with her as he tries to stop the relationship until things get a little crazy later on as it’s a performance full of charm and wit. Finally, there’s Bel Powley in a phenomenal performance as Minnie Goetz as this 15-year old girl whose interest in sex has her losing her virginity while recording her experiences through an audio diary and art where it’s a performance full of energy and wit that serves as a major breakthrough for Powley.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a sensational film from Marielle Heller that features an incredible performance from Bel Powley. Featuring a great supporting cast, a killer soundtrack, and a very inventive take on a girl’s exploration of sexuality. It’s a film that manages to do so much more for the coming-of-age angle as well a story about sex from the perspective of a young girl. In the end, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a tremendous film from Marielle Heller.

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm so torn on this film. It's very stylish, and I liked the animation. Bel Powley is phenomenal like you said, and I like that it was about a girl taking charge of her sexuality. But I couldn't help but feel super uncomfortable every time she and Monroe hooked up. Like, I'm not here for this ephebophile stuff. Even though I knew that was coming it just took the film down for me.

thevoid99 said...

I do see where you're coming from as you couldn't help but be creeped out by Monroe but you're also noticing that Minnie is sort of taking charge in some ways no matter how misguided as she is as a young woman.