What happens when a 15-year-old girl has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, as depicted in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, the debut feature from Marielle Heller, adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel? Perhaps not the hysterical freak-out you’d expect.
This more sweet-than-sour coming-of-age dramedy is set in mid-1970s San Francisco. Aspiring artist Minnie (Bel Powley) lives with her free-spirited, somewhat lackadaisical mom (Kristen Wiig) and her layabout boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). Mutual flirting between Minnie and Monroe leads to a sexual relationship, enjoyed and sustained by both. (Diary snapshots a time and place in which adults acted like children and children acted like adults.)
Minnie records her thoughts on poorly hidden cassette tapes, running the gamut of adolescent joys and miseries: She’s independent and insecure, confident and confused, thrilled and terrified. Mostly, she wants to be wanted, and is unsure of how to secure this. British TV actress Powley plays Minnie’s mix of vulnerability and moxie perfectly.
Some viewers may take exception with Diary’s largely non-judgmental approach to this relationship. Yes, it’s inappropriate and will surely end in some tears, but Diary takes another tack: People, especially teenagers, do dumb things — but growing up is defined by mistakes, and what is learned from them. Starts Fri., Aug. 28.