Tuesday 18 August 2015

Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

World of Blackout Film Review

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Poster

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Cert: 18 / 102 mins / Dir. Marielle Heller / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Yeah, I wouldn't normally, but I've already passed on a few movies this year which were clearly Not My Thing™, and I like to expand my horizons at least a little. Boasting a great cast, fantastic visuals and an intriguing premise and execution, what's not to love?

San Francisco, 1976, and introverted 15 yr old Minnie begins an affair with her divorced-mother's boyfriend, trying to make sense of her changing body, attitudes and environment through her audio-diary and her comic-strip art.

Now, I was right in my initial suspicion that this isn't really for me, given that I'm not (and never have been) a teenage girl, and don't have children from whose perspective I can watch. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is a fascinating and heartfelt study of feminine adolescence, anxiety and sexuality, irrespective of the viewer's gender. Providing you can get over all that, y'know, "statutory rape" stuff*1. And I know that's not what the film's about, but it was a stumbling block for me. That, plus the fact that Marielle Heller successfully directs her cast in being such unapologetically horrendous people.

Although Bel Powley is nothing short of magnificent in her role as Minnie, I really found it difficult to bond with the film emotionally. The film (for me) is a 100 minute conflict between exquisite storytelling and inherently (yet necessarily) unlikeable characters. And yes, I include Minnie in that. I didn't go so far as hating her character, but there was no connection there for me*2. There are some excellent performances on display here, they're just performances of awful people which is a problem when (I assume) I'm meant to be caring about what happens to at least one of them (poor old Kristen Wiig spends most of the film torn between repurposing her performance as the young Lucille Bluth, or looking like a drag queen).

On a related note, I like how the preceding BBFC card simply warns of "strong sex" next to the '18' certification. It implies an assumption that if the viewer is okay with the "strong sex" (occasional) then the drug use (frequent) and bad language (constant) don't even warrant mentioning. Also, it's not 'that' strong (UK certification guidelines being what they are), but fair play to the BBFC for erring on the side of caution.

As much as I admired the craft of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I just didn't enjoy the product.

A beautiful film, not made for me I think.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Yeah, probably.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
For its core audience, this will be one to buy.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Difficult to say, but everyone's really, really good at what they're doing, here.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There ain't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, this film stars Alexander Skarsgård who also appeared in the cinematic aberration that was Battleship, as did Liam 'Gui-Gon' Neeson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Written like a 40-something wooly-liberal man sure, but the point still stands. Particularly since the legality is barely addressed in the film. Unlike contraception and pregnancy which aren't mentioned at all.

*2 Note to filmmakers: do not confuse vulnerability and fallibility with amiability. They're components, certainly, but they're not an all-out substitute.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


  1. I'm assuming you're a man. Funny, it seems that women rarely have trouble "connecting" to male characters. I'm guessing there's something inherently wrong with all men.

    1. I am a man yes, although you didn't have to assume, I said as much in the review. I also said (or at least thought I did) why I couldn't connect with the characters. It's not because they're female, it's because they're awful people (I connected with Monroe even less)