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USA 2015
Directed by
Marielle Heller
102 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
4 stars

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

Synopsis: It’s 1976 in San Francisco and Minnie (Bel Powley) is a precocious 15-year-old living with her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), her sister, Gretel (Abby Wait,) and frequently her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård).  Lonely and creative, Minnie seeks the mentorship of her comic artist hero, Aline Kominsky, whilst embarking on an enthusiastic sexual odyssey, starting with her mother’s boyfriend, confiding her innermost thoughts to a cassette-tape diary.

Films like Juno, (Jason Reitman, 2007) and Wetlands (David Wnendt, 2013) rely heavily on the actor playing the central role being able to deliver an honest and open portrayal of a young woman’s sexual explorations without it feeling kind of creepy. Newcomer, Bel Powely, manages to pull this off with an inspired performance more than ably supported by both Wiig and Skarsgård, the latter proving that there’s more to his repertoire than playing the brooding, hunky vampire in True Blood.

But Powley is not the only new kid on the block in this highly enjoyable, witty and insightful film.  First time director and screenwriter, Marielle Heller not only elicits pitch-perfect performances from her cast, including a great turn from Christopher Meloni as Pascal, Minnie’s pretentious but ultimately caring estranged father, but also offers us a visually strong and beautifully-made film that stunningly captures the period. Her screenplay is adapted from Pheobe Gloeckner’s 2002 partly graphic novel. The film version honours the book’s subtitle – “An Account In Words and Pictures” – by incorporating Sara Gunnarsdóttir’s vivid and evocative animations into the fabric of the story.

Whilst the film is very funny at times, it is not the kind of humour we’ve come to expect from a film which features Wiig. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s a thoughtful and often moving account of a group of characters who seem lost in the liberation of the era and unsure about where to search for meaning in their lives. There are many scenes in which the kidnap of Patty Hearst is referenced, both in conversation and on television news broadcasts. The question that Monroe and Charlotte seem perplexed by is how could Hearst fall for the very people who had taken her prisoner. In some ways, this reflects the lifestyle we are presented with; a group of characters who seem held to ransom by the counterculture mores of 1970’s San Francisco and are unsure of who they are or what they feel until Minnie’s act of seemingly innocent and genuine love for Monroe acts as the circuit breaker for them all.

Heller was selected as both the 2012 Sundance Directing Fellow and the Sundance Writing Fellow and has a number of other screenwriting fellowships to her credit. With such a strong and accomplished film as their respective debuts, both she and Powley look like talents to watch.




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