Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is, on paper, a coming of age story like any other. You know the type: young girl, skipping through life, has her first sexual encounter, takes a few drugs here and there, argues with her mum, finds a passion and all the while is just trying to figure out who she really is in the world.
Except Diary Of A Teenage Girl does all this while occasionally touching on some controversial issues without ever really making a big deal of them. As such it is a film that posses a certain honest wistfulness in its execution. Following Minnie (Bel Powley) as she navigates her way through ‘70s San Francisco is one thing but throw in her under-age affair with her mum Charlotte’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and you have a film that offers something different.
Writer director Marielle Heller shoots everything with an orange hue of nostalgia, a sense that we’re looking back at memories rather than reality. This is further heightened by Minnie’s animations coming to life and entering her world to help express what she’s really feeling.
Powley carries the role with aplomb, the antithesis of what a Hollywood teenager looks like, she’s awkward, uncomfortable in her own body and endless endearing. Embarking on this journey of discovery with her is both heartfelt and funny. There is never any hint that we’re supposed to judge Minnie’s journey, she knows that sleeping with Monroe is wrong, but she’s learning as she goes and in Powley’s hands that is always wonderfully realised. When you appreciate that Powley is in fact 25 years old, playing a character ten years her junior makes the performance that much more mesmerizing.
By the end Heller asks us to address that moment when you cease being a child and put childish things behind you. It’s that feeling of finally realising you’re an adult even if your age doesn’t necessarily make you one. It’s a poignant and fascinating dissection of adolescence. Honest, funny and thought provoking, this Diary Of A Teenage Girl is worth opening.