Minnie Goetze, played by Bel Powley, wants love, rad sex, a perfect body, acceptance and the life of an artist in this late 70’s San Francisco tale. “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is based on the book of the same title that is loosely based on the author Phoebe Gloeckner’s youth. The story opens with Minnie gloating and musing about her first sexual experience. Minnie has a lively inner life that is expressed in voiceovers, musings of her imagination and her thoughts, at times blossoming into graphic novel styled animations. Powley, a British actress, nails the San Franciscan accent and dives deeply into Minnie’s skin. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s mother, Charlotte, a freewheelin’ coke snortin’, weed smokin’, swingin’ librarian divorced mother of two girls. She is mostly disconnected from those girls and applies most of her time to her lifestyle, giving Minnie little maternal support. Minnie’s dairy, a cheap top load portable cassette player, is where she shares her most intimate thoughts and machinations laying her soul bare with bright, emotional and creative teenage girl commentary.
The movie shines, story wise, in its ability to juxtapose girly sweetness and challenging gritty crudeness into this graphic novel inspired movie. Yes, there are blossoming flowers and flying butterflies around Minnie, and then there’s Minnie’s R. Crumb inspired sexual illustrations of graphic sex acts that will shock the more delicate, even the less delicate for that matter. The graphically strong illustration by Minnie of a young girl engaged in the act of fellatio immediately comes to mind as a shocker. There are other sexually explicit drawings seen in the movie but the animation is directed towards the childishly fanciful part of Minnie’s imagination. The animation is as cleverly used in this film as it was in the French movie “Amelie.” It’s a mixed bag where Precious Moments meets Robert Williams in Minnie’s world. This isn’t the only taboo touched upon in this feature. Minnie’s first sexual encounter, the one she’s so ecstatic about, is with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgård. Monroe plays an important part in Minnie’s life and sense of self-esteem. Monroe is her the dirty little secret. Their lengthy affair reaches its arch in their last loving making frenzy dosed with LSD, where the artifice of Monroe’s manliness crumbles in her youthful eyes, abandoning ideals of them as a couple. This last experience with Monroe leaves her disgusted and yearning for more or something completely different. The last straw for Minnie and her world is when Charlotte discovers the cassette dairies and Minnie’s affair with Monroe. From this moment of reckoning, the story has some unexpected twists in the plot that derail both Minnie’s innocence and naughty secret life.
She runs away from home to embarks on a “Sexcapade” of different partners. In the underbelly of San Francisco, she finds the kind of drugged-out Hippie parties that play out in anyone’s imagination of hookah pipe debauchery of late ’70s San Francisco. The film introduces a montage of parties, dance clubs and multiple lovers that drags her to her lowest point in the story. She gets involved with a lesbian lover that pimps her out to trade in drugs. Minnie ends up spun and un-done. You really feel Minnie’s character and you really feel the culture of San Francisco, as this story breathes life into the city and people of that time. “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a moving and an engaging story of a teenage girl with all her beguiling sweetness, imbued in adolescence zeal and her skin-close vulnerabilities. This story explores her sexuality, her deepest desires to find herself and eventually define who she will be as a woman. Powley’s portrayal of Minnie in“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a powerful and honest coming of age portrayal that has a lot of depth and a lot of soul. It’s a story that shouldn’t be missed!