By: Grant Vance ~Staff Writer~
The Sundance Film Festival has been the origin of many great independent films, giving new filmmakers an outlet for their unique studio-secular projects. Marielle Heller’s “Diary of a Teenage Girl” is the most recent film to join these ranks. Written and directed by Heller, “Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a quirky, partially animated comingof- age story centered on the budding sexuality of its lead, Minnie. Caught in the middle of an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe, Minnie balances her dreams of being an artist with the trials and turmoil of growing up.
“Diary of a Teenage Girl” is hilarious, well-grounded and visually eccentric. Set in the ‘70s, the film’s tone is loose and free spirited. It feels like so much is happening among the central themes, Minnie’s internal dialogue and the occasional animated sequence, but this is all integrated well, never taking away from the story. The animated sequences especially are stunning, using crude, eccentric cartoons to portray Minnie’s internal struggle. The performances in “Diary of a Teenage Girl” also hold up very well.
Bel Powley does a wonderful job as Minnie, bringing a great sense of naiveté to her rebellious state. Kristen Wiig, the most well known star in the film, is also wonderful. Her role as Minnie’s mother is complicated. Her hippie lifestyle often coming off as negligent, Wiig’s charm turns what could be a one-beat bad parent into a likeable character with her own complex arc. Alexander Skarsgard also gives a notable performance as Monroe. Though he’s a controversial character, considering the nature of his actions, Skarsgard brings just the right amount of innocence to the role and makes Monroe a character sympathetic enough to not hate.
An honorable mention should also be given to Abby Wait as Minnie’s younger sister, Gretel, who steals the show with many of the film’s memorable comedic bits. “Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a gem of a coming-of-age film, the likes of which only comes every so often. Not only is it unique and innovative by design, it also has its heart grounded in the right place. Though the nature of Monroe and Minnie’s affair is extreme, Minnie’s experience of growth is relatable enough to resonate with anyone. “Diary of a Teenage Girl” is now showing at the Esquire Theater in limited release.
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