The Diary of a Teenage Girl, written and directed by Marielle Heller, is a very adult indie drama about a fifteen-year-old girl who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend in 1970’s San Francisco.
Bel Powley plays Minnie, an insecure young artist (graphic novels) looking for love who becomes involved with the 35-year-old Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) and decides to narrate her adventures into her cassette recorder, unwisely hiding her cassettes in a shoe box under her bed, with a note to keep out. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s mother, Charlotte, a woman who wants to be a good mother to her two daughters but is too busy partying (with lots of drugs and alcohol) and struggling as a single parent to realize what is happening under her roof (though she has suspicions).
Monroe is understandably uncomfortable with his sexual relationship with a minor twenty years younger than him (not to mention that she is the daughter of his girlfriend) and tries to break it off. Minnie, who doesn’t think much of herself, begins to question whether Monroe really cares for her and various believable crises ensue.
The acting by Powley (who is perfectly cast), Wiig and Skarsgard is outstanding, the dialogue is funny and smart, the use of drawings/animation provides unique opportunities for intelligent commentary and the cinematography and score are excellent, providing a great 70’ feel. Most extraordinary, however, is the way this nonjudgmental coming-of-age story feels more honest than most and doesn’t create the kind of screaming melodrama that such a story would generate on TV.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl gets a very solid ***+. My mug is up. But be warned: this film is rated 18A in Canada for a reason.