More often than not, body image or thinking oneself ugly or not good enough is high cause for self esteem issues and in the case of Minnie (Bel Powley) from The Diary of a Teenage Girl, it’s a mixture of these things. Her mother (Kristen Wiig) is an alcoholic and lives a lifestyle of parties and drugs, which is the complete opposite of Minnie’s father (Christopher Meloni). So Minnie doesn’t think she’s particularly attractive and has issues of neglect, but when she sees that her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) shows interest in her, Minnie takes the opportunity to see how far she can go. And while it’s clear that an affair wasn’t what she had planned, the two end up in one. She at the tender age of 15 and he far older to be seeing an underage girl. The events cause Minnie to contemplate love, lust, and more importantly, herself.
Based on the book of the same name, writer/director Marielle Heller infuses her script with humor, a sense of self, and a character that we can all relate to in some way or another. Set in the ’70s, the film immediately sends us into the chaos that becomes Minnie’s life, and while we know where it might lead (to nothing good), the finale isn’t as straight-laced as you’d think.
Bel Powley gives us a terrific performance. She becomes entrenched in Minnie’s life, which leaves us with a layered, strong, yet vulnerable character who, at the end of the day, is just a young girl trying to grow up and explore out her sexuality. Kristen Wiig serves as a good supporting character with her own problems and trouble giving attention to her daughter (as soon as she does and realizes she is, she stops). Alexander Skarsgård, an indie actor through and through, is probably the least complicated out of everyone. And while his sex scenes with Powley can hit an awkward note because of the age difference, there is a weird and genuine chemistry between them and their performances reflect that.
It would have been nice if the relationship between Powley and Wiig was explored more because in some instances it’s swept under the rug in order to turn the focus on Minnie’s sex life. This lack of overall development of the mother/daughter dynamic leads to an ending that doesn’t feel as complete as it should given what happens between them later on. It hovers over Minnie’s actions and throughout the plot of the film but is never allowed to flourish.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a film about the loss of innocence, the insecurities of a girl who doesn’t see herself as attractive but seizes the opportunity to sleep with her mother’s boyfriend because she thinks she’ll never get a chance to be with anyone otherwise. The film is confident, but isn’t always able to balance its themes. The performances, however, drive the story and make for intriguing conversations even if the end feels like it’s pulled together quickly in order to spur a resolution.
Release Date: August 14, 2015 | Director and Screenwriter: Marielle Heller | Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni, Abby Wait | Genre: Drama | MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, drug use, language and drinking — all involving teens