Diary of a Teenage Girl
Marielle Heller (USA 2015) Bel Powley
Tyneside Cinema 11 Aug 2015; ticket: £8.50
Things that go bonk on the screen
Heller’s ‘Diary’ is encapsulated in one image about mid way through. Minnie and Monroe are filmed lying on his bed post coital in the sort of pose that might have come out of a ‘Hello’ photo shoot. A piece of artful fabrication that panders to the fakery of fuckery. A normalising piece of the new American dream, peddled by Hollywood that can only handle both sex and insanity with the pretence of sham simulation. It’s a lie.
Interesting the film I saw before ‘Diary’ , Ferreri’s 1975 movie ‘La Grande Bouffe’, mannered as it is, deals only with truth. ‘Diary’ also a product of its times, only expresses the need for self deception. “ Bouffe’ knew what it was about, the obscenity of male dominated relations, and attacked its target with honesty and gusto.
Diary of a Teenage Girl doesn’t know what it’s about. Instead it has an agenda. And honesty is not on the agenda, but sex is. And that is what Heller is selling or rather pimping: the shibboleths of 21st century movie feminism. A film that aims to vindicate an ideological take on female sexuality with a crass script which reads like a tick list. With Minnie’s Diary we go on a journey with her: through sex fantasy, my first fellate, my first fuck, sharing mom’s boy friend, getting paid for going down on it, my enlightened lesbianism etc, the realisation that men are stupid…etc…
The journey is guided by Minnie’s narcissism, in tune with a generation of ‘me’ film directors. Actually of course Minnie is going nowhere just deeper into her own self admiration society. And the film goes nowhere: like the game played by Minnie and Monroe in the diner when he gives her his hand to bite….and nothing happens. For a film that has as its core event a daughter taking her mom’s lover, Diary is strangely detached decontextualized. It’s…its as if nothing happens. Except, life is one big opportunity for the photo-shoot pose, the selfie and the one liner. But of course, appearances are all that really matter.
In the 70’s Barbara Loden and Chantal Akerman made films with women at the core of their filmic consciousness. These films were characterised by honesty of depiction and development. By contrast Marielle Heller seems content to banish truth from her concerns and resort to the lazy formulaic conventions of Hollywood feminism.
I don’t think there is a moment of honesty in “the Diary’. Minnie evasion is perfectly captured in her acting (and that of the rest of the caste) which with its pouting, grimacing and phoney smiles barely does justice to a Disney Toon let alone its soap opera provenance. Adrin Neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org