The Diary of a Teenage Girl
- Directed and written for screen by: Marielle Heller
- Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner
- Starring: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig
- Sony Pictures Classics, Caviar Films, Cold Iron Pictures
- Won best feature film at the Berlin International Film Festival anf Edinburgh International Film Festival
This year, many female artists have been critical of the lack of female stories available and being made in Hollywood. This year’s “Sicario” starring Emily Blunt drew attention prior to production because executives considered making Blunt’s role into one for a man, even though it was written for a woman. I remember hearing one of this years’s leading ladies in an interview on NPR recommending that, as women, when we see films about and by women in the box office, we should go buy tickets for them, especially opening weekend, because that’s when it matters most, even if we don’t see them. While I support that notion, I hardly have the money to go see the movies I do get to see, though I try to make them films with strong female roles.
It seems crazy considering women make up half the population, but many Hollywood executives are under the impression that women’s stories don’t sell. I can tell you this as not only something I have read about, but because I have been in rooms where those words have been spoken by Hollywood executives. Hollywood lacks female voices as well in the roles of directors and writers. Don’t believe me? According to the Director’s Guild of America, women directed 16% of television episodes in the 2014-15 season. Over 3900 episodes were filmed, which means around 624 episodes were directed by women. They also found only 6.4% of 376 films made between 2013-14 were directed by women.
Nonetheless, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” was made this year with two female leads, a female helmer and based on the book by a woman about women. And although it wasn’t a box office success, it garnered attention at film festivals and had some excellent buzz.
The film is about a teenage girl named Minnie (Bel Powley) who has an affair with her mother, Charlotte’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard).
The film takes place in the seventies and we are ushered into it through a first person narration by Minnie who begins recording her thoughts on a tape recorder as a diary after losing her virginity to Monroe. Minnie’s mind is filled with the thoughts every teenager has with explosions of color and doodles. She is an artist and her drawings help the audience to understand her mind.
The most interesting thing about this film is that nothing is portrayed as grandiose or ultra-dramatic. The music, lighting and cinematography even through the drugs, alcohol and sex is all portrayed ultra realistically, giving the film an authentic feel. It doesn’t feel like a turbulent whirlwind, but rather a progression through Minnie’s life. When a naked Minnie stands in front of the mirror examining her body, it doesn’t feel sexual, it feels like a teenager looking at her body the way a teenager does- looking for flaws, changes, trying to understand what this body means.
Over the course of the film, Minnie’s peers begin to see her differently and one girl even calls her a “slut” to her face. Minnie’s reaction is subdued and it seems to roll off of her like water from a duck’s back. As the film goes on and Minnie’s sexual exploits continue, I had an interesting thought. It was difficult to see Minnie as any one thing, although one of those things would certainly be confused teenager lacking authority figures in her life, but “slut” was not a simple term that could identify her. Following Minnie’s story gives an understanding and a perspective that is unique to the film world. Knowing her motivations and thoughts as honestly as she could tell them made her a complex and immensely human figure. Seeing a young woman portrayed this way is so rare. It felt raw, honest and real. For that reason alone, I recommend it. I also recommend it for the unique use of animation throughout the film used as a way to understand Minnie, even when Minnie seems to not quite understand herself.