This year’s Sundance Film Festival not only had its share of riches, but a wealth of breakout talents. Perhaps no other film demonstrated that as loudly as the “The Diary Of A Teenage Girl,” which introduced us to up-and-coming star Bel Powley and director Marielle Heller (both of whom made our Biggest Breakout Stars, Filmmakers & Newcomers Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival list). A vibrant coming of age movie with a darker edge, perhaps one of the most striking elements of the film was seeing a young girl enjoying and owning her sexuality in such a powerful way.
“I remember watching ‘American Pie’ and feeling so outside of it, even though I was 17 or 18 when it came out,” Heller said right before Sundance. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, girls are the objective of this story.’ They are not present. The whole story is about how dudes feel about girls and there’s never any perspective given about how girls may feel about boys. I identified more with the dudes.”
So “Diary Of A Teenage Girl,” adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, course corrects on that idea. Also starring Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Meloni, our Sundance review said Heller had “technique to burn” in her “sharply observed, funny, and textured” film. Here’s the synopsis:
Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment. Set in 1976 San Francisco, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL begins at the crossroads of the fading hippie movement and the dawn of punk rock. News commentary of the Patty Hearst trial echoes in the background, as Minnie’s young expressive eyes soak in a drug-laden city in transition— where teenage rebellion and adult responsibility clash in characters lost and longing. Minnie’s hard-partying mother and absent father have left her rudderless. She first finds solace in Monroe’s seductive smile, and then on the backstreets of the city by the bay. Animation serves a refuge from the confusing and unstable world around her. Minnie emerges defiant— taking command of her sexuality and drawing on her newfound creative talents to reveal truths in the kind of intimate and vivid detail that can only be found in the pages of a teenage girl’s diary. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s novel of the same name, hailed by Salon as “one of the most brutally honest, shocking, tender and beautiful portrayals of growing up female in America.” Writer/Director Marielle Heller unlocks this diary with a richly comedic and deeply personal vision. In her feature film directorial debut, Heller brings Gloeckner’s book to life with fearless performances, a stirring score, inventive graphic novel-like animation sequences, imagination, humor and heart. It is a coming of age story that is as poignant as it is unsettling.
“The Diary Of A Teenage Girl” opens the New Directors/New Films Film Festival tonight at SXSW. No date has been set, but Sony Pictures Classics will release the movie later this year. Check out the new photos below.