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The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/19/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/23/2016
When discussing adolescence, most don't look upon it fondly. Puberty, acne, awkward feelings about love, bad clothes, the list of cringe-inducing memories of that time in life can go on and on. However, despite the teenage years are actually a very important time in one's life, as that's when the true personality begins to emerge and when most people really start to discover who they are. Life-long opinions about art, culture, politics, and many, many more things will begin to coalesce during this period. So, adolescence may be a grueling, trying phase, but it can also be beautiful. Unless we're talking about its portrayal in The Diary of a Teenage Girl.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes place in the 1970s and introduces us to life in the San Francisco of that time. Here, we meet Minnie (Bel Powley), a 16-year old girl who lives with her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), and her little sister, Gretel (Abigail Wait). Charlotte's boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), spends a lot of time in the apartment, and Minnie can't deny that she's attracted to him. One day, the attraction is returned and the two begin a sexual relationship. This awakens something in Minnie where all that she can think about is sex and she begins to channel it into her drawings. When Monroe isn't around, Minnie finds herself going out and engaging in risky behavior. Will she spiral out of control?
Rarely have I seen a movie as confused as The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Based on a book by Phoebe Gloeckner, the movie vacillates between art-movie cliches, erotica, and shock theater with no true destination. Let's start with Minnie's behavior. Is it natural for a teenage girl to be curious about sex and drawn to an older man? For the sake of argument, let's say yes, but the movie takes this idea and runs amok with it, as what could have been a small tryst between Minnie and Monroe turns into a full-blown statutory rape relationship. On top of this, Minnie goes to parties where she drinks, uses drugs, and engages in sex with total strangers. I think that the movie thinks that it's some sort of morality play, as we watch Minnie and Monroe and we know that they both know what they are doing is wrong, but they don't care. Whose to blame? The adult who should know better, or the young woman who is not only engaging in something taboo, but with her mother's boyfriend, no less. I'm sure that the movie wants us to ponder these question, as it pretends to be oh so deep. But, at its heart, this all borders on smut. The movie reaches a point where it is just one long sex scene and it never misses a chance for Minnie to be nude. What little story there is here is often set aside to show one lurid scene after another. Is the movie attempting to be shocking? Let me tell you, it's too boring to be shocking.
This leaves us with the story and the characters, neither of which are going to rescue this film. No one here is likable. As our heroine, shouldn't Minnie at least be a tiny bit enjoyable? But, she's not. She's a whiny brat who thinks that she's a modern woman. Again, perhaps the film does this on purpose, but once Minnie goes down the rabbit hole, she doesn't retain any of her innocence. So we get a teenage sex machine from the get go. Are we supposed to relate to this. From there, we have Monroe, the rapist, Charlotte, the absentee mother, and various assorted other fringe characters. The movie really drops the ball at the end. This all plays out like a nightmarish version of an After School Special, but there's no resolution in the finale. Sure, some feelings may be hurt, and some (minor) lessons were learned, but no one is truly punished. Minnie makes it through the world of debauchery unscathed. Is this good? The movie further weakens any true gravity by having Minnie's sexually charged drawings come to life.
I should be here telling that that because I have two teenage daughters The Diary of a Teenage Girl shook me to my core and terrified me. But, that wasn't the case. The movie so quickly goes off of the rails and shoots for indie-house erotica clout that it's difficult to take seriously. Instead of a moving portrait of a young woman's blossoming desires, we get a movie which is about someone who clearly has Borderline Personality Disorder and has no idea how to form healthy relationships. This idea could have yielded an interesting exploration of a soul yearning for a hug, but instead it goes sex crazy and loses any credibility. Don't bother prying open this diary.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl must have certainly gotten cooties on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The movie is dominated by muted, earth tones, but the colors still look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is rarely soft and the depth is acceptable for a drama like this. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The music in some party scenes provides mild subwoofer action and some surround effects, and we get some surround effects from street scenes, but otherwise, the audio spends most of its time in the center channel.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY form Director Marielle Heller and actors Bel Powley and Alexander Skarsgard. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. One of these shows a black and white short film made by Minnie. "Marielle's Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life" (23 minutes) is a making of featurette in which Heller discusses how the film came together. From there, we get comments from the cast who discuss their characters and the themes of the film, as well as some on-set footage. "Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgard and Bel Powley" (25 minutes) has the three fielding questions after a screening. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long