Water not frequently tread. So this is a coming of age story about a high school girl (Bel Powley) in 1970’s San Francisco. She discovers who she is in a number of very different ways, but it is mostly sexual. I honestly did not know what I was getting myself into with The Diary of a Teenage Girl. I knew very little about it, other than it was getting acclaim on the festival circuit. I was quite frankly floored with how great it is, and for me, this is the out of nowhere surprise of the year.
If you go in cold, prepare in for a doozy.
You think you may know what is about, and if you’re anything like me, you probably started by making assumptions about this right away from the title alone. You look at the poster and see how it is similar it is to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and you think that you know what you’re in for. Teaching you not to judge a book by its cover, this starts off on this dark, messed up level that is mostly disturbing. Minor spoilers for the first 10 minute, but you witness a high school girl making a pass at her mother’s boyfriend and succeeding. If that doesn’t make your skin crawl, there may be something wrong with you. I know in the back of my head that Bel Powley is an adult actress in her 20’s, but she plays a high schooler so convincingly that you see a teenage girl for the entire time. It puts you, as an audience member, in a kind of moral quandary, because while it is certainly empowering because she is taking what she wants (and not in a way where she is being taken advantage of), you can’t turn off the part of your brain where you know that there is extensive psychological damage being done, and those conflicting feelings that this stirs in you is exactly why I think this is so great.
Also, Kristen Wigg turns in a performance that is way different than what she usually does.
This is also a very well put together film as well. This girl wants to be a comic book artist, and this whole entire movie, there are cartoons that she has drawn popping up to interact with her, and it is an imaginative thing to do with your storytelling. Given the age of the girl, this is not a story that ever gets told. It’s daring, invigorating and sordid all rolled into one. It is gritty and sexual, which are two words that hardly ever get fused with a coming of age story. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is dark and adult, but never in way that feels exploitative, and that is a fine line to walk. I can say that the 70’s were a different time, but that hardly tells the half of this. It is shocking and is definitely not for everybody, but I think this is one of the best movies of the year.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2o15) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015? See for yourself here.