Wild, disorienting, and at moments bordering on pornographic, The Diary of a Teenage Girl calls its viewers back to adolescence. Anyone who remembers their teenage years will remind you that those were never “better days” nor “simpler times.” They were terrifying and giddy.
Minnie’s secret diary, recorded on audio cassettes, takes us through her trials as she discovers new games she can play as a budding adult. These games, however, come with new rules and no one around is qualified to explain to her what they are.
Bel Powley takes on the role of Minnie, playing the whole range of adolescent emotions believably and engagingly as Minnie finds her own oozing sexuality exhilarating and dangerous. The best part of her performance is her twitching, playful smile—because it makes Minnie completely believable—and her large wet eyes as they hold back tears—because they carry the heavy emotions that words can’t express.
One of the movie’s special treats is the animation that is sprinkled throughout. Serving to augment the reality of the film, it captures the psychedelic nature of the 60s that perpetually hovers in the background as well as the film’s bizarre sexual-macabre tone.
While Diary is undeniably a coming of age tale, it differs greatly from other, more familiar examples, in the genre. Many coming-of-age flicks are about shedding the trappings of youth and taking one’s place among the realm of adults. Minnie, however, is “officially an adult” even before the movie starts.
Unfortunately most of the people around her have the “adult” thing about as well under control as she does. Her mother is irresponsible and her happiness is dependent on men, alcohol and drugs. Her former step dad is pretentious, narcissistic and only on the most distant fringe of the picture. And the man currently seeing Minnie’s mother is starting a vitamin-mail order company (professionally unemployable) and lives up to the promise his pedo-stash makes.
No, Diary is not the story of a child becoming an adult; it is the story of an adult becoming mature in a world where maturity is hard to find and easy to lose. It grabs onto themes and questions that plague even the most well adjusted adult: the desire to be loved, to be happy, to be safe. Beyond even those, though, Diary looks at how we fill the holes in our hearts that the acidity of life eats away.
Diary is not a fun movie, the humor is muted and the subject matter often uncomfortable, but it is a good movie; one that is worth seeing to remind us of our ongoing adolescence, even if we never happened to be teenage girls.