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DVD Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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Based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel of the same name, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is written and directed by first-timer Marielle Heller, who you may have seen in front of camera in MacGruber, orAmong the Tombstones. The film stars barnstorming newcomer Bel Powley as the titular teen, alongside the ever-wonderful Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), and man candy – even when in a rollneck with an awful moustache – Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood).

It’s 1976 and teenager Minnie has just had sex for the first time. With her mum’s boyfriend. Very excited, Minnie (Powley) begins recording an audio diary of her ensuing sexual experiences with her mother’s partner Monroe (Skarsgård), and others, as she explores who she is and what she likes. It’s a funny, naughty, painful and awkward journey; but while Minnie’s burgeoning sexuality burns bright, the shoebox of evidence under her bed smoulders while waiting for its fated discovery by her unknowing mother (Wiig).

Bel Powley’s hilariously honest voiceover gives the film it’s heart and authenticity, while Minnie’s thoughts and feelings are visually represented with clever animated augmentations that bring them to life. Wiig is tragic-comic in a surprisingly small but still vital role; while Skarsgård’s tempted and torn man is portrayed as flawed and relatable, and not predatory.

It is Powley that makes the film special though. Her big wide emotive eyes are full of innocence and fresh undirected passions and, like the film itself, do not blink or look away from anything. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is fresh and frank, with Powley providing a body and sex positive portrayal of a young girl coming of age.

The fact that The Diary of a Teenage Girl might be of some help, solace or guidance to girls of a similar age is lost on the BBFC, who have given the film an 18 certificate – which is a great shame. Their thinking is clearly that the lead character is under-age, 15, so a film portraying her mostly positive sexual experiences while under the legal age of consent in the UK is a no-no for those of similar age. The official line is the rating is due to “strong sex”, but you don’t even see Alexander Skarsgård’s dick. Again – a great shame.

Unfortunately only available on DVD, The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s standard def picture is serviceable enough, but, for those very accustomed to all their content being HD, it lacks pop and sharpness – with the supposed-to-be-vibrant mid-seventies colours suffering most. The audio is available in 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 mix is surprisingly lively in its movement around the speakers with some ear pleasing separation and, again somewhat surprising, roots deep bass when called for.

The only extra feature on the disc is “The Diary of a Teenage Girl – A Look Inside”, a making of with input from two of the film’s stars Bel Powley and Alexander Skarsgård. It would be a fairly standard talking heads piece, but it is elevated somewhat by Powley and Skarsgard wise insights into their characters and their relationship. Bel comes over particularly well, seeming highly intelligent and unflappable. These interviews are intercut with some B-roll footage and a little talk of the film’s sets and costuming.

4-out-of-5

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