The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, film review: Like a distaff US version of Adrian Mole with more sex

(18) Marielle Heller, 102 mins. Starring: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard
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The Independent Culture

In an era of smooth and sanitised teen movies, it is refreshing to encounter a film as idiosyncratic, dirty-minded and self-consciously wayward as this. It benefits from a wonderful central performance from Bel Powley as Minnie Goetz, the pouting, big-eyed, quizzical and thoroughly subversive 15-year-old anti-heroine, growing up in mid-1970s San Francisco and chronicling her life on a tape recorder.

The film is like a distaff US version of Adrian Mole with a lot more sex thrown in. Minnie has a disarming way of expressing herself. She is a would-be cartoonist and writer who has decided that "alienation is good for your art". As the film begins, she is delighted to tell us she has just had sex for the first time. Her lover is her mum's boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), who is handsome, charming and a layabout. She is convinced she is unattractive and so sees her fling as a "lucky break".

Marielle Heller, the director, recreates 1970s San Francisco, still hungover from the flower-power era, in loving detail. The film is shot in rich, dark colours, and uses animation in witty, poignant fashion. Minnie is curious about sex to the point of obsession but the film manages to deal with her burgeoning love life without ever seeming prurient or voyeuristic. Minnie keeps her audio diary partly as a way of trying to decipher "adult codes" – and the adults here, represented by Monroe and her mum (Kristen Wiig), behave very strangely, indeed. As an adolescent whose parents are separated and whose future seems very uncertain, Minnie could easily fall prey to self-pity but her most appealing quality is her defiance. As she proclaims at one stage: "I refuse to be a snivelling cry-baby. This is my life!"