Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
The rich and vibrant film "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" by Marielle Heller is based on the controversial and groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name. This wild narrative has definite texture and unfolds with a loose freedom very similar to the way a graphic novel reads.
Minnie (Bel Powley) is an awkward and idealistic fifteen year old girl who aspires to be an artist. She begins to idolize her mom's boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). Asked to go with him on an outing, she unwittingly excites him during some innocent teasing and then voices desire for him.
They have sex in the car.
The two carry on sexually under the nose of the bohemian mom Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). Minnie's sole confessor (to a point) is a tape recorder, where she ruminates and spins poetic anecdotes.
What would be unsavory and disturbing is here taken as a matter of personal development and creativity, juxtaposed as it is with Minnie's growth as a free illustrator.
This odd girl is no Lolita and Monroe is no pervert. Rather, what is stressed is the existence of two sensual creatures caught in a bind.
More startling still is the idea that to be someone truly creative is to be highly sexual. Minnie's work parallels her sexual awakening. Whenever she has sex, she creates a new illustration.
The girl goes from place to place. She is called crazy and a nymphomaniac. To escape judgment, she initializes a correspondence with Illustrator Aline Kominsky, wife of Robert Crumb. As this is the 1970s in San Francisco, Kominsky replies by mail.
The strange narrative is helped along by the fantastical animation of Sara Gunnarsdottir, which is highly influenced by Kominsky. Gunnarsdottir reportedly did so many panels for the film that she injured her arm.
Kristen Wiig is quite good here, as is Skarsgard, and both characters seem more loony and out of touch than Minnie herself. She alone is the most level, with an intrinsic awareness of the inter-being between art and life.
While seeming disquieting and moody, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" is a very accurate portrait of the 70's, in addition to a vivid character drama. Much like Tim Burton's "Big Eyes" which also takes place in San Francisco, this is about a creative woman being pushed and pulled. But where Burton moralizes in his story of Margaret Keane, director Marielle Heller gives us an existential hellion with a pagan sense of creativity, and gives us the liberty to come to our own resolutions.
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