Based on a novel by Phoeve Gloeckner, which I haven’t read so cannot comment on, and written and directed by Marielle Heller, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is the tale of a girl, obviously, doing her best to rush into womanhood while being warped and shaped by the selfish actions of those around her. It also features plenty of animation overlapping the real-life footage, a groovy soundtrack, and a time period of the mid-1970s. If that sounds like the recipe for a typical indie flick that you have no interest in seeing then I can understand where you’re coming from. But, trust me, this movie takes some very interesting turns, and will stay in your memory long after you’ve left the cinema.
Bel Powley plays Minnie, the teenage girl of the title. She doesn’t write in a diary, but prefers to record her thoughts on cassette tape. When we first meet Minnie, she is enjoying the fact that she has just had sex for the first time. It’s not long until we find out that the person she just had sex with is someone who should have known better. It is, in fact, her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). And that’s the starting point of the film. This unfolds within the first 5-10 minutes, making the rest of the movie a tense drama that takes some dark and interesting turns as it shows the toll taken on Minnie while she keeps trying to act more and more like her adult persona should.
Boosted enormously by a great cast (Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s mother, Abby Wait is great as her younger sister, Christopher Meloni has a small, fun role and Madeleine Waters is a free-spirited friend of our leading lady), Heller has also been very lucky in getting Powley for the lead role, one that requires a pretty fearless performance, considering the situations depicted and the amount of nudity required. Which isn’t to take anything away from Skarsgard, who puts in one of his best performances in a role that won’t necessarily win him any fans. The script may work some magic with a sprinkling of humour and a light touch, but it’s hard to deny that Skarsgard plays a real scumbag.
Complicating what could easily have been a more simplistic, and therefore less interesting, storyline reaps rewards in this instance, as Heller uses the events depicted onscreen to explore the differences between fantasies and aspirations, to look at sexual development and exploration as a time when mistakes are made that don’t always have to spell the end of your life as you know it, and to show how teenagers can be warped by the actions of adults who don’t take the time to guide them in the right direction, whether intended or not.
You certainly won’t feel comfortable while watching this, but you should still give it your time. It’s a consistently interesting, and daring, piece of work.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is screening at EIFF 2015 on 22nd and 23rd June.
DIRECTOR: MARIELLE HELLER
WRITER: MARIELLER HELLER, BASED ON THE NOVEL BY PHOEBE GLOECKNER
STARS: BEL POWLEY, ALEXANDER SKARSGARD, KRISTEN WIIG, CHRISTOPHER MELONI, MADELEINE WATERS, ABBY WAIT
RUNTIME: 102 MINS APPROX