Sydney Film Festival Reviewed

We reviewed some of the most buzzed films at this year's festival, including 'Dope', 'Ruben Guthrie', 'Gayby Baby' and 'Holding The Man'. Many were excellent. Some were not.

The Film That Will Make You Wish You Grew Up In San Francisco In The ’70s:


The Diary of a Teenage Girl, dir. Marielle Heller

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Kristin Wiig, Bel Powley

Reviewed by: Dee Jefferson

This is a film to make you wish you’d grown up in San Francisco in the 1970s. Or is it? (On the one hand, free love, lax parenting, and mind-blowing drug experiences; on the other hand, free love, lax parenting and mind-blowing drug experiences…). Maybe what it most makes you want is to be Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old aspiring comic book artist with a fearless approach to love, life and the female body, and a vivid imagination. All hail Minnie!

Minnie is the creation (and in some ways the fictional alter ego) of artist and writer Phoebe Gloeckner, who immortalised her in words and images in her 2002 graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Marielle Heller’s screen adaptation (which was first a stage adaptation) is suitably warts-and-all, corporeal, and morally complicated – everything a teen account of their sexual awakening and unravelling should be.

It has to be said, the moral ambivalence the film takes towards some of the material is uncomfortable. By today’s standards, a 15-year-old shagging their mum’s thirty-something boyfriend is a straight-up abusive situation – but this film not only steers clear of judgement in fact and in tone, it casts Alexander Skarsgård as the predatory older guy, Monroe, and writes him as a sort of hopelessly romantic man-child with no self-control, whose weak moral compass has no chance against the gravitational pull of his penis.

Minnie – the movie Minnie (played by the hugely charismatic newcomer Bel Powley) – survives everything her sixteenth year throws at her, and we’re allowed to feel happy at the end. Gloeckner has survived, too — but in an interview about the film, and with the benefit of hindsight, she says, “That part of my life was traumatic, and there are probably parts of it I still haven’t processed.”

For fans of: Lena Dunham/Girls, comics, frank depictions of sexuality.

Opening in Australia: September 24

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