When The Diary Of A Teenage Girl begins it opens with Minnie (Bel Powley) a 15 year old teenager who is very excited about the fact that she has found a guy who wanted to have sex with her. As the story pans out we soon learn that aspiring artist Minnie lives with her hippie-like mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), and her slightly dorky younger sister, Gretel (Abby Wait), who likes to spy on what Minnie is doing.
So who is the guy that Minnie has lost her virginity to? Well that is soon revealed to be Charlotte’s thirty-five year old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), who convinces Minnie that he is in love with her and that it is okay for them to start a relationship. Once Minnie has her sexual awakening it then starts her and her best friend Kimmie (Madeleine Waters) on a destructive path of sex and drugs.
Take note – The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is one of the most surprising films of 2015. A click glance of the cast and seeing Kristen Wiig mentioned would have you excused for thinking that this is the latest coming-of-age comedy about the young unattractive teenager trying to impress the boy she likes. Even the film’s poster backs this up and yes I found myself sitting down in the cinema expecting another film in the vein of The Way, Way Back. What I got instead was a really eye-opener of a film that dares to be gritty and different and propels itself into deserving the description – one of the films of the year.
Directed by first time director Marielle Heller and based on a novel by Phoebe Gloeckner The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is a brutally frank look at what happens to a young girl when she is molested by a person that she is supposed to trust. Heller makes a brave decision with this film, she could have made this a dark confronting film like a filmmaker such as Lars Von Trier or Larry Clarke would have, but instead Heller does something different. She instead tell the story of Monroe and Minnie’s relationship in the same way any romance film would. She shows the young girl besotted by her lover and follows their relationship so intently we even see some pretty graphic sex scenes, graphic in the sense of nudity not in the sense of violence. As Minnie tells the story of her first love it is up to the audience to pass the judgment of how wrong the relationship is because for the narrator (Minnie) this is the love affair of a life time. The fact that Heller takes this path makes the Diary Of A Teenage Girl a brilliant film that for once does something different without using that as a marketing ploy.
Heller also brings other things to the table that makes this film a gem. She capitalizes on the fact that Minnie is an aspiring artist and at times during the film brings the artwork to life in animation, a move that only enhances the fact that this sweet and innocent teenager is really creating some pretty confronting and sexual sketches. This style of filmmaking allows the audience to take an occasional break from the fact that a character they love is soon being reduced to low acts of $5 prostitution sex.
The brilliant script (which is also written by Heller) does a great job in giving the audience a view of the goings on straight from Minnie’s innocent point-of-view. We never really get to see Monroe as the stereotypical pedophilic monster that a lot of films would have used to portray him while we also get to see how he is able to get to Minnie as the fact that she sees herself as a fat and unattractive teen is subtly fed to the audience without the use of a sledgehammer. The story also provides moments of great drama. You are forever wondering what will happen when Charlotte learns about Minnie and Monroe, while some of the other characters introduced into Minnie’s life, like Tabatha (Margarita Levieva), also have you wondering exactly what they are planning on doing with Minnie.
When it comes to the cast The Diary Of A Teenage Girl also packs a lot of surprises. For a start there is no sense of comedy at all around Kristen Wiig as she portrays Charlotte, a mother who wants to experiment with drugs and live the hippy lifestyle while always on the lookout for a man who is going to take care of her. At times Wiig is virtually unrecognizable as the same actress who made us laugh so hard in Bridesmaids. Then there is Alexander Skarsgard who portrays Monroe as your typical everyday lovable loser, the kind of guy you know is never going to amount to anything but certainly wouldn’t suspect of sleeping with a 15 year old girl. Skarsgard turns creepy without turning up the creepiness factor if that makes sense?
Then there is the acting performance of young Bel Powley who deals with a lot in this film. From scenes consisting of her standing naked for a few minutes at a time to the constant barrage of put downs about her appearance this is one role that Powley needs to be rewarded for. A relative unknown until she played Princess Margaret in A Royal Night Out earlier this year Powley’s strong dramatic and daring performance here not only deserves to win her awards but should also be a breakout performance for her in the same way Juno was for Ellen Page. Powley announces herself as an actress to watch in with one hell of a performance.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is a must for anyone that likes alternative cinema and doesn’t mind making some brave descisions. The film will be hard to watch for some but is also a fim that will completely stun its audience. Thought provoking and confronting The Diary Of A Teenage Girl not only reveals Bel Powley as an actress to watch but also announces Marielle Heller as a filmmaker to watch.