Film Reviews

SO IT GOES – <i>The Diary of a Teenage Girl</i> (2015)

SO IT GOES – The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

Sarah Gough-Piazza

September 4th, 2015


The coming-of-age story is a staple in cinema, a way in which the studios can relate to a younger audience. The change from adolescence to adulthood is one that all must go through, therefore the curiosity to watch another’s journey has made this genre distinguished. Although common, this sort of story is a difficult one to successfully produce, as it is easy to resort to clichés just for the audience appeal. The Diary of a Teenage Girl plays off of this genre while also promoting an extremely honest representation of the inner workings of a teenage girl.

Written and directed by Marielle Heller and based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley), who is living in 1976 San Francisco. Living a free lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, introduced to her by her vacant, alcoholic mother Charlotte (Kristin Wiig), Minnie begins to experience a sexual awakening, brought on by the loss of her virginity to her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), and begins to document her life via voice recordings, which provides a narration throughout the movie, as well as comic book-style illustrations to guide her as she discovers what she wants out of a romantic relationship, as well as her overall ambitions for her life.

This film explores Minnie’s sexualility in a refreshing way: completely without judgement. Although there are many sex scenes within the movie, they are told through Minnie’s perspective, which allows her character to dodge the classic “Lolita” depiction of the young girl seduced by an older man. Heller, who previously adapted Gloeckner’s graphic novel for the stage, takes a different approach in which both parties involved are represented to be mature enough to be a part of their relationship. Although the film in no way excuses the relationship between Minnie and Monroe, it also doesn’t denounce it either, nor does it denounce the multiple other relationships she has with a variety of partners, from the boy her own age to the more risky relationships Minnie has with men and women as part of the 1976 party lifestyle. Instead, the film allows Minnie to evolve and mature through her experiences as it progresses.

It’s easy to forget that Minnie is only 15 years old. The only prominent reminders of her age are the constant voiceovers and animations, similar to those of the graphic novel, that describe and stimulate her emotions. The juxtaposition between the reality in which Minnie lives and the wonderment of her drawings allows a more innocent and witty look at her inner self. Minnie wants to make comic books for a living; therefore, the illustrations not only serve as a way of expression for her current surroundings, but also allow the possibility of prosperity and a future for Minnie. The movie only provides a small look into a small aspect of her world, but as the movie ends, it becomes clear that Minnie’s story does not.

Although the film is less than two hours long, it feels as if it were four. This is not a negative quality, however. Throughout the film, new characters and ideas are introduced, but don’t seem to have any sort of resolution. As the audience, I wanted to know what happens to Minnie’s drug dealer, who is secretly in love with her, or whether her mother stopped her reckless behavior. Although a minor distraction, it felt as if the writers had bitten off more than they could chew, opening up many different plots but failing to provide conclusions.

Otherwise, this film is a different sort of coming-of-age story, one that is extremely relatable to a wider audience, all the while maintaining a light and witty disposition that keeps The Diary of a Teenage Girl entertaining.

The End of the Tour continues its run at the Bijou Metro. Click here for showtimes.

Sarah Gough-Piazza is a senior at the University of Oregon studying comparative literature with a concentration in German and creative writing. She spends her time obsessively browsing YouTube and Tumblr, and has come to the conclusion that she likes dogs more than humans. So It Goes is an irregular column in which she provides critical analyses of films screening locally.

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