Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 51 minutes, Director – Amy Poehler
Quiet, 16 year old Vivian (Hadley Robinson) causes a wave at her school through her anonymous, sexism battling zine, Moxie.
The last two or three years have brought us an array of brilliant new teen movies. From the likes of Love, Simon, Eighth Grade and Booksmart to this year’s darkly comic Spontaneous. Moxie, although still with its comedic edges, takes a more frequently deeper, serious tone to the above. Throughout we follow Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a quiet 16 year old high-schooler happily going about her days until she meets new student Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña). From her first day Lucy battles against the sexism and harassment of her male classmates – predominantly by the uncomfortable presence and actions of outspoken jock Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger). As a new version of ‘The List’ is released – labelling female students in categories such as ‘Best Rack’, ‘Best Ass’, ‘Most Bangable’ and ‘Most Obedient’ – Vivian, alongside many others in the school, decides she has had enough of this being ignored by everyone else in the school, including the Principal (Marcia Gay Harden).
A wave spreads throughout the school, fighting against sexist dress-codes and silent teacher actions, once a mysterious zine, entitled Moxie, is found in the girls bathrooms. Revolution starts and it only grows over the course of the film. While nobody knows it Vivian is behind Moxie, printing it in increasing amounts of black and white copies from a nearby copy-store. All of this inspired by stories of the leather jacket wearing, punk-feminism revolution actions of her mother (Amy Poehler) from her own school days.
Unlike the popularity divide represented in Poehler’s comedy partner Tina Fey’s screenplay for, rather different teen movie, Mean Girls this film, directed by Poehler – from a screenplay by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, based on Jennifer Mathieu’s novel of the same name – is very much about people coming together, no matter their status or background, to fight for a common cause. You feel the strength and unity of the expanding group as their demonstrations become prouder and more widespread. It’s difficult not to get caught up in the fire and the passion of not just the style and the themes of the film but the performances of the rising talent on-screen. Managing to convey the seriousness of the ideas that the film produces and the dashes of grounded humour that are spread throughout help to keep a feeling of natural conversation between the characters – particularly between Vivian and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai).
As the second half arrives the film very much shifts focus from the group push aspect of things to the affect that Moxie is having on Vivian’s life. It causes a rift in her friendship with Claudia, who doesn’t take part in the demonstrations that are being encouraged in the zine, becoming distanced from her and closer to Lucy and classmate Seth (Nico Hiraga) – a noticeable figure in class after having experienced a large growth spurt over the summer. The laughs die down as Vivian’s situation becomes more personal and the fear that she will be found at as Moxie grows alongside the movement that she created. During this particular section of the piece a different kind of drama certainly comes through and while it doesn’t quite have the same energy and power as the core cause at hand it serves as a good, if lengthy, piece of character drama. It takes a while for the powerful efforts of the Moxie group to truly step towards the front of the stage again. However, when they do it’s a grand scale push that truly captures the spirit, heart, passions and understanding of the film. One where time has been taken to understand not only the issues, but the responses of the characters, individually and as a collective. This is a very different type of teen movie, a perhaps essential one. And, much like many recent teen movies, one that’s definitely worthwhile.
Personal relationship beats for the central character may not have the same punch as the finely handled power of the unified demonstrations throughout but, Moxie is still an enjoyable, interesting and fiery teen movie with passion and hope at its heart.