For a writer/director debut, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an undoubtedly impressive achievement. Taking on the “coming of age” genre is no easy task due to the sheer volume of attempts out there, and Marielle Heller deftly handles this task with the help of great source material (the novel “The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures” by Phoebe Gloeckner) and a phenomenal cast.
Bel Powley (from the CBBC television series “M.I. High”) stars as the title character and narrator, Minnie. Living in San Francisco in 1976 with her bohemian mother Charlotte (the wonderful as always Kristen Wiig) is a confusing time for the 15-year-old Minnie, and she keeps an audio diary seemingly to help herself make sense of everything. Minnie also confides in her best friend Kimmie (Madeleine Waters).
The relationship the film spends the most time on is between Minnie and Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), who happens to be dating Charlotte. One night, Charlotte doesn’t feel like going out, and encourages Minnie to take her place. That gives Minnie and Monroe the chance to get to know each other, something that will have a profound effect on Minnie as she makes the difficult transition into a young adult. Their relationship quickly turns sexual, and it also forms the core of the movie.
“Diary” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s able to deftly maneuver its way through the clichés and tropes that have become prevalent in the genre. Much of the credit goes to Powley, who is in every single scene and shoulders the weight of the film with seeming ease. Wiig and Skarsgård are also effective in their roles, Skarsgård particularly, since a grown man engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old would be easy to write off as scummy, but Skarsgård makes him more complicated than that.
This is an honest, sometimes difficult film, and as the father of a young girl somewhat frightened me. The Minnie character is complicated, but the combination of Heller and Powley do an amazing job keeping her sympathetic, interesting, and real. This film seemed to fly a bit under the radar, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.
Six special features are presented on this Blu-ray. There’s a commentary track with Director Marielle Heller and Actors Bel Powley and Alexander Skarsgård. Three deleted scenes are shown that run for a total of 5:24, all of which the movie is just fine without. There’s “Marielle’s Journey: Bringing The Diary to Life,” which runs about 23 minutes and is a good (albeit standard) making-of featurette. A very nice added feature is the, Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgård, and Bel Powley, which runs around 25 minutes and offers a lot of cool insight. Plus the theatrical trailer, and preview for Irrational Man, Jimmy’s Hall, Infinitely Polar Bear, Truth, Grandma, and Labyrinth of Lies.
Sony Pictures Classics presents The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Written for the screen and directed by Marielle Heller, based on the book by Phoebe Gloeckner. Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni, and Kristen Wiig. Run Time: 102 minutes. Rated R. Released: January 19, 2016.
Tags: Alexander Skarsgard, Bel Powley, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Kristen Wiig, Marielle Heller