The tempestuousness of youth is an oft-cited dramatic device but rarely conveyed with an authentic urgency. “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is infused with it.
Writer-director Marielle Heller adapts Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel depicting the most intimate thoughts and feelings of hormonal teenager Minnie (the astonishing newcomer Bel Powley), living in San Francisco during the 1970s and deeply obsessed with her mom’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård), with whom she begins an affair.
The film is achingly apt in the ways it captures Minnie’s intense emotions, through animated flourishes illustrating her imagination, the mixture of eloquence and naiveté underlying Powley’s performance and a steadfast first-person perspective that keeps the camera close to Minnie and communicates the anxiety and excitement of a sexual awakening.
Female sexuality is too often the province of men in pop culture, shaped and manipulated to fit a point of view that has less to do with truth than it does masculine fantasy. This movie stands opposed to that tradition; it tells Minnie’s story with a total absence of judgment and an openhearted embrace of her humanity. That’s a significant achievement.
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” Directed by Marielle Heller. Starring Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård. Rated R. Playing at Sunshine, Lincoln Square