The eponymous teenage girl (Bel Powley), aka Minnie, loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Kristen Wiig/Alexander Skarsgard) – don’t worry, they “aren’t possessive.” Obviously that should not have been the only obstacle, and she knows this isn’t ideal, but in her words, she’s ugly, and who knows how many offers will come her way.
So this isn’t one of those easily watchable movies, it’s not “enjoyable” or “comfortable.” It’s awkward in the ‘He only sleeps with my Mom or she’d suspect something’ kind of way that rings true for those of us who put up with our mother’s creepy boyfriends in our own childhoods, but true in the way that we’ve buried way down deep and aren’t anxious to revisit.
Don’t worry, the awkwardness doesn’t end there – anyone for random cartoon penises? Our heroine isn’t exactly likeable – relatable, maybe, but self-involved like any teenager, won’t stop talking about herself, only we don’t have the luxury of sending her to her room. And in a movie about a young girl being bedded by her mother’s boyfriend, she shouldn’t be the villain. And, okay, she’s not: Skarsgard’s 1970s mustache is, but my sympathy for her ran short.
Don’t get me wrong – on the whole, I’m still liking this film. It’s bold and unconventional, frank and non-judgemental, which, given the topic, is refreshing. Bel Powley is self-possessed, mixing sexual, spiritual and artistic awakening confidently. Kristen Wiig shows a lot of restraint in her role from the back seat. And writer\director Marielle Heller bravely bears witness without passing judgment – but it’ll make you squirm.
That’s the point, I guess. The diary of any teenage girl would make you squirm. I kept a diary myself – luckily not as a teenager (that was my poetry writing period, which, believe me, is worse) but as a little girl. It’s silver and has a unicorn on the front and stickers of Joey McIntyre from The New Kids on the Block, aka, my former future husband, littering the inside covers. The sickly-sweet pink pages feature lots of my extra-large loopy handwriting talking about boys, recess, how wonderful I was, and what a rotten cook my mother was, and would always be. Cringe-worthy stuff. Reminds me of a documentary I watched a while back called Mortified Nation – a series of events across North America where people stand at a microphone and read embarrassing excerpts from childhood diaries. Audiences laugh warmly along with the reader, who through some form of catharsis realizes that whatever mortifying inner thoughts we had as a tortured teenager, most were pretty commonly shared. And in a way it’s nice to look back on a time when we were young and innocent and everything was fresh and exciting, and we were self-absorbed enough to wallow in it, and to write it down for posterity, as if anyone would care.
Did you keep a diary in your youth? Is it filled with sexual transgressions? Does it tell of a wild and misspent youth? Are you embarrassed? Would you stand up and read it aloud to a room full of strangers?
Would you print an excerpt from it in the comments?