Once again, a coming of age deals with one losing their virginity and, as with most coming of age films featuring girls, a man much older than the girl is the one ushering her into womanhood. But something is different about The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Something talked about more below.
Trigger Warning(s): Pedophilia
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
Like many teenagers who don’t look like the stars who they see in movies or on TV, Minnie (Bel Powley) wonders if something is perhaps wrong with her? Is she ugly, are her breast too small, is she fat? A lot of thoughts run through her brain and with only her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) showing her any sort of affection, things get a bit weird.
It starts off friendly, though, Monroe is just a playful would-be stepdad. Someone who is perhaps more attentive than her mom, play fights with her and is certainly around far more than her biological dad, but then they go drinking together, she bites on his hand while they play fight, sucks on his finger, and then it seems he might just realize things have gone too far. However, then the mind of a predator rolls in, and so we witness a 15-year-old with a 35-year-old man, repeatedly.
Thus giving Minnie a crash course on love, lust, sexual liberation, and being confident even when, perhaps, the world doesn’t really give you much reason to.
Though it is very weird to say, perhaps the best thing about this film is that as much as it presented the concept of virginity as a big deal, at heart it was really about being desired, wanted, and having a full-fledged relationship. For as much as Minnie damn near craved sex with Monroe, at the same time you can tell that she also wanted to truly get to know him from the littlest things like his favorite color to him talking about his parents. Which I think is a big deal for, unless my memory is off, often times there is a sole focus on virginity and not necessarily intimacy, being playful with your lover, and just hanging out. Making the fact her relationship is with someone like Monroe saddening.
Though there are some things I can’t relate to, since I wasn’t a teenaged girl, I do like the idea of a coming of age film actually addressing body issues, and the idea that someone can feel not attractive. Then keeping such an idea even after someone sort of validates your outer perceived attractiveness.
A big theme this year has been how representation matters, and I quite like that Minnie was the type of girl who may have been awkward but grew to learn to like her body, not need a man’s, or women’s, validation on it, and that she is one of the few in coming of age stories that we see pursue her dream. She wants to be an artist so she draws, heads to the comic store and upon learning about an inspiration woman who draws in a way she identifies with, she communicates with her. Then, as she goes through things with Monroe, and other people, she continues to draw in order to express herself. Making it seem that she never really lost who she was in the pursuit of understanding, and getting to experience, sex.
To piggyback on that last comment, another reason I loved this film was because it wasn’t like most coming of age movies in which the lead is chewed up and spat out by the person who accelerated their development. Minnie isn’t take in by fascination and full on lost and obsessed with Monroe, and then strangely becomes older and wiser due to surviving his nonsense. No, Monroe is but a catalyst and while she does become wiser because of him, it is not all based on her interactions with him but her own individual journey.
One thing I think I always love in movies is when live action animation is used. For whether it is to place in stories which require younger versions of the actor, to put an exclamation point on a feeling, for a little bit of a laugh, show how drugs are affecting a character, or give you an idea of how they see themselves, it is always a welcome addition. This movie, in particular, uses it to perhaps the best degree I’ve seen since, in recent memory, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. In ways, as aforementioned, to show how Minnie sees herself in her own head, how she thinks of sex and bodies when sexualized, as well as when on an acid trip.
No matter who Minnie was having sex with, and she has a few partners, there is never the type of chemistry there which makes you feel like a perverted voyeur. What I mean by that is, the sex isn’t on the level of Love or Blue is the Warmest Color in which it seems like you are peering on a private moment between two people with chemistry, lust, or who feel something for each other. All you get out of Minnie’s sexual exploration is a bit of nudity, some fake moans, a bit of fondling, and grinding. Which sucks since a bit part of her growth comes from demystifying sex and disconnecting it, to a certain degree, from love and the feeling of being attractive.
On The Fence
Like most films, there is this feeling that supporting characters should have meant more, done more, been more defined, and etc. However, after saying that about nearly every other movie, I feel like I’ve come to the point of accepting films largely will have one blinding star and a bunch of others which help build their universe. Most won’t shine brightly enough to snatch your attention, but maybe for a moment, and sadly their performances usually won’t be something worth noting. A note which applies to damn near all the supporting cast for they simply play their part and aren’t given the opportunity to shine.
Final Thought(s): Worth Seeing
As time goes on I come to realize that some movies are excellent, until put under a microscope. This is one of those films. For if you just focus on Minnie and her journey, and how she represents a rare point of view in the coming of age genre, both in general and for a young woman’s point of view, this film is truly something. However, while comparisons to its peers make it good, once you start thinking of possible flaws it goes downhill with slight speed. Yet, realizing there isn’t something majorly bad about this film which can’t be considered subjective, I’m labeling it “Worth Seeing.” The positives largely outweigh the almost minuscule negatives, and it is enjoyable throughout.