Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I saw the trailer for this in late August and it instantly appealed to me as it was set in San Francisco in the year I was born. I love the fashion and the hairstyles and the music of the 1970s, but it was Bel Powley's wide eyes that made me write the title down. Well, that and the blurb from Manohla Dargis' NY Times review that said "pulls off the tricky feat of honoring Minnie's sexuality without exploiting it or her." Right on.

This film wrecked me. I can't remember a character - on film or in a book - that I identified with so deeply as I did with Minnie Goetze. Her thoughts and reactions were so similar to my own as a teenager that it was unsettling and comforting all at once. Like when Minnie says, "it feels so good to imagine that he might be thinking about me...I wonder if anybody loves me who I don't know about..." And especially "I didn't know if I wanted him or anyone else to fuck me, but I was afraid to pass up the chance 'cause I may never get another." Man, that last one stung. What a terrible feeling it is to settle. To take the scraps and accept something you don't really want because you feel you should be grateful that anyone is paying this kind of attention to you. It's one of the top five shittiest feelings and it can haunt you for years. It was kind of empowering in a way to watch things happen to Minnie and see her poor judgement in certain situations but see her remain whole and be herself.

The day after I first saw The Diary of a Teenage Girl I went back and watched it with the commentary and then immediately ordered the book (which is simply gorgeous) and then the soundtrack on vinyl and mp3. The record hasn't left my turntable since it arrived; each song just makes me happy and is the perfect background music for doing all my odd lil' household chores. I was so beyond thrilled to be introduced to new-old songs from the 70s. Labi Siffre's Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying and The Rose Garden's Next Plane to London are breathtaking and catchy, respectively. Also, Run to the Mountain and Dreamsong are new-new songs and both are absolutely beautiful. I find myself bouncing up and down in my kitchen to Run to the Mountain and smiling. It's the ideal song to end the soundtrack and the film. But back to the movie...

I always find myself drawn to films that center around dull, unpretty girls, but the thing is, the girls in the movies are always pretty. Take, for instance, Streisand in Funny Girl, she's flawlessly beautiful but we, the audience, have to pretend that she's plain. I felt like that about Bel Powley as Minnie. She's just lovely with the perfect figure and only fits the role of a simple girl because she isn't slathered in makeup and she dresses like a regular teenager from the 70s, not decked out to the nines. But, even though Bel is a complete knockout, her portrayal of Minnie felt so honest that I was utterly absorbed by her every move. 

Oh and I really admired Alexander Skarsgård as Monroe. It was a tough role to take on because there was a very thin line between playing Monroe as a creepy grown-up or as a sort of pathetic man in a state of arrested development. He had to be very careful to not be liked or despised by the viewer, and he succeeded. 

I like that the director, Marielle Heller, was female and her love of the novel is so apparent throughout the film, especially now that I'm reading the book. I think Heller did great justice to the words and images that Phoebe Gloeckner created. That's so rare. Usually film versions are a big ole disappointment. I know I'm going on and on about this movie, but I really did love it. All the adjectives I know - fantastic, outstanding, marvelous, extraordinary and so on - don't describe this film well enough. The experience, for me at least, of watching The Diary of a Teenage Girl and meeting Minnie and seeing Bel Powley's performance was like the last sentence of a crazy awesome book; a crowd's applause and the creak of squeaking theatre seats when they stand; the little gaspy sigh of an infant asleep on your shoulder; and the smell of clean laundry leaving the dryer. It was all those sensations, experiences, memories, and warmth. It was the best movie I've seen all year. I wish I knew someone that felt the same way about this film so we could dish about it. I think I'll loan my copy of the dvd to Kayla because I think she'll love it almost as much as I do.

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