Film Review: The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

I have noticed over the last few years that films classification appears to be getting tamer. Movies that I would expect to be an 18 arrive bearing a 15 instead. Whether society is just becoming numb, more accepting or blind is another debate, but it’s obvious that in the digital world we now live in where content of any desire is so easily accessible, what we are prepared to let people see at younger and younger ages is ever changing.

It is, therefore, surprising when the debate turns full circle. When the outcry isn’t that a film is available to an audience too young to understand it, but rather, that it’s been too harshly judged and as a result, completely shut out the exact people who should be viewing it. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is in that exact situation. It’s been given an 18 certificate due to the prolonged and repetitive sexual and drug related nature of its story, but that’s it point. It is trying to talk to teenage girls about the pitfalls and dangers of sex and drugs and coming of age, but in doing so in such a graphic way it’s shut the door on them.

Bel Powley - The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

It was this stand off, and the debate that is ongoing about it, that perked my interest in the film. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at if otherwise, being neither a teenager, or a girl and I think I got too caught up in the debate that I forgot what it implied, what the film would be like, because when the opening line of the movie was “I had sex today” my heart completely sank as it dawned on me the level at which this film was going to speak.

That infamous opening line is issued by the titular teenage girl Minnie, played by Bel Powley, who puts in a divisive performance. I truly hate and detest her character. I found her needy and repulsive, manipulative and disgusting. It really did reach a point where I became so loathing of her and her actions that when the film attempted to create empathy, or sympathy, or happiness toward her in you I just didn’t care. I was meant to be feeling these emotions at the way her life is going and instead I just sat there nonplussed, not caring what happened to her. But it’s a credit to Powley that she invoked that reaction in me. Her performance isn’t great, she won’t be getting at awards nominations, but she gives the character a personality and convinces you that she’s real even if her actions are despicable and too farfetched.

Bell Powley & Alexander Skarsgard - The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

I also found the film incredibly boring. Nothing happens. Aside from sex, drugs and giving head. Over and over. It’s just 100 minutes of slipping from one act of intercourse to the next. The pace never changes, the story never twists and it never really makes it point. Even stranger though is that, for a film that is basically just a 15 year old girl letting anyone into her knickers who smiles at her, it doesn’t, thankfully, feel like a porn movie. Director Marielle Heller has done a good job of making it feel like a cinematic film rather than a top shelf narrative, but it’s just style, the substance isn’t there to keep you interested.

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is set during the 1970’s and it certainly looks like the 1970s, but it didn’t feel like them. The colours are right, the clothes are on point, but the characters felt modern. It almost felt like they’d chosen the decade as a metaphorical covering rather than a usable plot point. It didn’t leave me uneasy, but it just removed a slight bit of trust towards the film. I also hated the way the film mixed up it’s tone. There are serious monologues and sequences where the film looks like it is trying to make a point on monogamy or underage sex, or teenage fantasies and then, without warning, it’ll swamp them with background animations. The cartons overlapping reality as birds chirp and fly and flowers blossom and bloom. You see it constantly littering happy go lucky teenage rom-coms, and it feels cheap and silly in them, when it’s playing alongside sequences as graphic as this and a dialogue that wants to be serious, it doesn’t fit at all, it simply confused a boring story by feeling so out of place.

Kristen Wiig - The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

You’ve probably realised I didn’t like the film, but I did find Kristen Wiig, as Mum Charlotte, interesting and easily the best thing in the film. Her character is a myopic stereotype of the Hollywood layabout Mum who appears to do nothing all day yet survive implausibly, but she brings a real seriousness to the role that is so far removed from any of her usual comic turns that I almost forget it’s her. It’s just a shame she’s underutilised, because she performance truly is the most interesting thing in the film.

I truly didn’t expect The Diary Of A Teenage Girl to be as bad as it was. As I said earlier, I sat there horrendously bored. Mentally forcing myself not to look at my watch as the second half dragged along, not wanting to know just how long there was left to endure. It’s extremely slow and one dimensional, laying out nothing but clichéd and obvious ideas and events. It’s ending is predictable and while in my view, there is a constant barrage of sex and drugs, the film is so tame and weak that it really should have been an 15. But making it an 18 just means less people have to endure the pain it offers which can only be a good thing.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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