It’s not long before the two become involved in an inappropriate relationship.
That’s a story that’s propped up hundreds of novels and movies over the years. Looking at the couples in the park, she notices for the first time how their chemistry subtly informs their body language.
Powley’s acting and Heller’s direction convey how Minnie reappraises the world around her through a sexual prism.
Pay attention to how Heller shoots Minnie (played by the remarkable newcomer Bel Powley) throughout this film. Minnie and her friends drink at bars and smoke pot or snort coke at parties – at times with her mother present – yet no one bats an eye. In any other movie, the same situation would be played for cynical misanthropic laughs or as miserable tragedy, but Heller (who once played Minnie in an Off-Broadway production she scripted) knows this is a story – lived out in variations every day in America – that’s deserving of an honest treatment devoid of the usual rush to judgment.
Minnie is maturing fast – “This means I’m officially an adult!” she says after her first experience with Monroe – and has no constraints on her behavior.
“I think there’s a real timeless quality to what she experiences”, Heller said. The film opens with her thrilled announcement, “I just had sex!” and backtracks to show us how it happened and then moves forward to the ramifications. “They ignore this insane part in the middle”. It’s about a 15-year-old girl having an affair with her mom’s boyfriend.
The film is filled with animated sequences from the pages of Minnie’s diary.
“I needed an actress who can be so many different things”, she says. “It just felt really important – the chance to represent teenage girls in a way that actually felt real”. So when Minnie decides she wants to offload her tedious virginity to Charlotte’s 35-year-old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård, living proof that NO ONE looks attractive or trustworthy with a pervstache), he says yes.
“Diary” also stars Kristen Wiig as Monroe’s girlfriend and Chris Meloni as Minnie’s father.
In the film, Monroe (played by a desperately skeezy Alexander Skarsgård) is clearly in the wrong for sleeping with Minnie. It’s wrong, but it’s also something that stems from something human. Instead of judging Minnie for her moral shortcomings, Powley leads us to empathize with her curiosity and courage. This is an abusive relationship, where he’s taking advantage of her, but like most abusive situations, it’s not so black and white where there’s a virginal victim and a predator.
On some level, Monroe knows that adult men aren’t supposed to sleep with teenage girls, and what Heller is interested in is just what causes that barrier to come tumbling down. Film Comment ranked Minnie as “the most forthrightly lewd and courageously sexual adolescent female protagonist ever beheld in an American movie”. Monroe sees it too, and it scares him.
Minnie’s bedroom shows off the film’s vaguely nostalgic vibe.
Even for freewheeling 1970s San Francisco, Minnie Goetze isn’t your typical 15-year-old.
We’ve all been teenagers, and we’ve all made stupid decisions while at that age. We don’t want to acknowledge that they’re sexual beings, with as much agency as men have.
Brandon Trost shot the film on a red epic with a 55mm lens. It’s OK on screen for a boy to have sex with an apple pie, but we can’t talk about women feeling horny? “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a breakthrough moment in the culture in that it depicts youthful female sexuality – oh, all right, lust – not just with the unapologetic frankness the boys usually get, but with an awareness of all the places a girl’s urges will take her, for worse and for better. “It needed to be authentic to the ’70s”.