REVIEW: THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

diary of a teenage girl

bars

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Great indie comedy/drama is based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner and tells the story of 15-year-old aspiring cartoonist Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley). Self-conscious Minnie lives in 1976 San Francisco and has a sexual awaking when she starts to have an affair with the handsome 35-year-old boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård) of her free-spirited mother (Kristen Wiig). The experience opens her up to exploring her newfound confidence and sexuality…and all the emotional turmoil that comes with it.

Written and directed by Marielle Heller, this is a provocative and daring movie about a young woman’s coming of age that is also touching, brazenly sexual and sometimes very funny. The film boldly breaks the double standard by unapologetically portraying a young woman sowing her newfound sexual oats and thus dealing with all the conflicting emotions that it brings. It also bravely portrays a very taboo relationship between Minnie and the much older Monroe, who is basically taking advantage of a young woman’s budding sexual appetites due to his own emotional insecurities. It’s done with intelligence, class, style and a touch of whimsy as Minnie’s cartoons often come to life to accent the situation or further explore what’s on her mind. This is a refreshingly honest film, made by Heller from her clever and very smart script that presents it’s story without judging the characters inhabiting it, or their behavior. The film is never smug or pretentious, either, nor is it ever exploitive or insensitive, despite the plentiful sexual situations involving a character that is supposed to be 15-years-old. This is an energetic and emotional film that has it’s heartbreaks, but also presents Minnie’s experiences as a natural progression out of childhood and a stage of self-discovery and maturing that some of the “adults” around her have yet to do. Watching Minnie coming to terms with not only all the new emotions and blossoming confidence, but the power and control her sexuality can sometimes afford her, is portrayed with the honesty and respect it deserves and there is an energy to Minnie’s awakening that resonates thanks to a firecracker of a leading lady.

While on the subject of cast, Heller achieves much of this, not only from her heartfelt script, that never trivializes the subject matter, but from great performances from her core actors. British actress Bel Powley is simply amazing as Minnie. She gives a brave and complex performance portraying all the emotions that a young girl, who is discovering her sexuality, would have. From the excitement, to dealing with the unexpected attachments, to the disappointment and heartbreaks, Bel is simply a powerhouse as a very real teenage girl becoming a young woman, who has urges and desires and learns to take control of them, all the while finding out who she is and who she wants to be. A young woman not afraid to use her newfound sexuality to get what, or who she wants either. Alexander Skarsgård does a really good job at the difficult task of making Monroe a person we don’t jump to conclusions about. A man with his own flaws and insecurities that lead him to have a very inappropriate relationship with his girlfriend’s young daughter. He keeps him from being just a one dimensional stereotypical creep, by giving us someone with his own emotional issues that lead him to irresponsibly respond to Minnie’s advances. Kristen Wiig is fantastic as Minnie’s mother Charlotte who has been married and now has adopted a more Bohemian lifestyle of drugs and sex to sate the emotional emptiness in her life. A woman sadly too involved in her own life to really see what is going on, practically in front of her. A great cast to portray well written characters.

Really loved this movie. It’s boldly sexual by presenting it’s subject of a young woman’s coming of age in a frank and unapologetic manner and at a time without the fear of AIDS and STDs. We get a dazzling performance by Bel Powley as Minnie and Marielle Heller takes us on her emotionally turbulent sexual awaking skillfully and with a lot of heart. There are some clever artistic touches too from the writer/director, as well as, an intelligent script with multidimensional characters that treats it’s subject with honesty and respect. A great little indie movie. Also stars Christopher Meloni as Charlotte’s ex, Pascal and Abigail Wait as Minnie’s little sister, Gretel.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 ans 1/2 stars.

three and one half stars rating

 

 

 

bars

Advertisements

REVIEW: WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (2014)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

white bird in a blizzard

bars

WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (2014)

Written and directed by Gregg Araki and based on a book by Laura Kasischke, this fascinating and involving film tells the story of Katrina (Shailene Woodley), a teen who is dealing with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of her mother, Eve (Eva Green). On the outside, Kat is trying to move on with her life, as years pass, but, not knowing her mother ‘s fate and not having closure, is eating her up on the inside. Her father, Brock (Christopher Meloni) seems oblivious, as does her stoner boyfriend, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and even finding herself in the arms of the older cop (Tom Jane) who investigated her mother’s case, isn’t enough to bring her peace. While trying to keep an outwardly composed appearance, she reminisces back on her mother’s odd behavior before she disappeared and is haunted by strange dreams that won’t let her rest till she gets some answers…but, will she?

Gregg Araki creates a film that is both quiet and yet very powerful as he tells the story of Katrina who is trying to go on with her life while dealing with the internal struggle of having no answers to her questions… and not much help getting those answers from those around her. Her mother appeared to be a troubled woman in their final moments together and the marriage between she and Kat’s father never seemed to really work but, this only creates more questions than it provides clues or answers. Did her mother just up and leave, or was it something darker that befell her? Araki paints a beautiful and haunting portrait of a young woman seeking closure both with a striking visual style and a subtle emotional power. He presents you with clues in flashbacks and dreams seen through Kat’s eyes but, like Kat, we still get no solid answers or inner peace. As seen from the young girl’s perspective, Araki gives us a colorful portrayal of a picture-perfect housewife who is slowly coming apart as the imperfection and boredom of her real life sets in. Despite their dysfunctional relationship toward the end, there’s a hole in Kat’s life and it can only be filled by answers she may not get…or closure she may never have. Araki takes us on a journey with Kat, who can’t truly be at peace, though she tries, till she finds the truth and the journey here is more important than the actual destination…and the destination may not be one that Kat expected or will want to accept. And Araki does it all with a touch of fairy tale whimsy that somehow works perfectly. On a technical level the film is gorgeous with cinematography by Sandra Valde-Hansen and a fitting 80s style score… the film takes place from 1988 to 1991…by composer Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie, who co-founded the Cocteau Twins. A film that equals the sum of it’s parts.

Araki’s skilled and visually stunning direction is further enhanced with knock-out performances from all his cast. Woodley is a powerhouse in her portrayal of a woman trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of her mother and wanting desperately to just go on with her life and despite her facade, she is slowly fragmenting inside. She is wonderful. Eva Green is also amazing as a woman who starts out as June Cleaver and slowly crumples into Joan Crawford as she realizes that this is as good as her life is going to get… and it’s not what she wants. Christopher Meloni gives us a man who seems oblivious and unable to stand up to his wife’s increasingly belligerent behavior. Once she’s gone, he seems to operate in a perpetual fog as he can’t seem to function emotionally without a woman who increasingly let it be known she didn’t love him. It’s a performance that is subtle but, has it’s layers as the story goes on. Fernandez is also strong playing the stoner Phil. He may appear to be lost in a purple haze but, there is more going on than it appears and Fernandez conveys that well, especially in the film’s revelatory final act. Jane is also good as Detective Scieziesciez, the older man and police officer from Eve’s case. He actually seems to care for Kat and Jane does nice work keeping him from coming across as a two dimensional jerk. Kat and he at first seem to use each other but, it appears to be more as the story progresses and the actors convey this in subtle but, effective ways. A great cast doing great work.

I loved this movie. I really have nothing negative to say about it. Nothing is perfect but, it’s imperfections are minor and really inconsequential when you view all that Araki get’s right. It’s an emotional journey that is exceptionally acted and one that is also subtly a mystery. A mystery where, despite all the clues and possibilities, you won’t quite see where it’s heading…and yet, it still all makes sense. Great direction, good writing and strong acting from all the cast. A great little indie movie. Also features Ava Acres (At The Devil’s Door) as 8 year old Kat and Angela Bassett as Kat’s therapist.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 stars… not going to get smarmy on this one, a great little movie.

four stars rating

bars