This weekend marks the theatrical release for one of the year's most talked about festival darlings, The Diary of a Teenage Girl. With critics and independent film lovers jointly voicing their approval for Marielle Heller's teen drama, needless to say I was eager to experience the movie for myself.
Newcomer Bel Powley stars as Minnie, an aspiring teen artist who has her first sexual encounter with her mother's boyfriend, Monroe (Alex Skarsgard). While they continue to sneak around engaging in a physical relationship with one another, Minnie confesses the dirty details of her taboo story to a cassette recorder. But as she comes to terms with her new-found sexual appetite and intense feelings for Monroe, Minnie soon discovers that the only person she needs approval from is herself.
Based on the Phoebe Gloeckner diaristic graphic novel of the same name, The Diary of a Teenage Girl paints a brutally honest picture of youth and finding one's sexuality. However, an overly devoted tribute to the novel from director Marielle Heller leads to an unconventional approach that's both unappealing and unnecessary. The frequent inclusion of cartoon animation and illustrations create a diversion from the earnest story at the film's core. And while The Diary of a Teenage Girl unapologetically journeys to some very dark places in a spiraling manner that's probably much better suited for a novel, at least the movie does a commendable job of wrapping a meaningful message around a flawed exterior.