Movie Review: Moxie
Moxie is about Vivian, an introverted teenager who is just trying to get through high school. Though, when a new student arrives, she sees the sexism and rampant harassment that has always plagued her school. In response, she gets inspiration from her mother's riot grrrl past and starts a zine called Moxie, where she exposes the awful truth. The film stars Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Sabrina Haskett, Sydney Park, Anjelika Washington, Emily Hopper, Josie Totah, Josephine Langford, Amy Poehler, Nico Hiraga, Ike Barinholtz, Joshua Walker, Clark Gregg, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Marcia Gay Harden. The film is directed by Amy Poehler and was written by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
I'm a viewer and cinephile who deeply appreciates earnestness. I like a film that truly commits to its intent and purpose and never lets us forget it. I like that Moxie never hides what it is and its message to humanity and those of us who need to zip it and listen. Yet, this method isn't for everyone. We are taught that cynicism and apathy are the preferred default state because if we get involved in anything, in any way, we're rocking the boat and "harshing everyone's mellow." Earnestness is scary because it means putting yourself out there.
I see the cynical point of view about Moxie. I can see the idea that the ideas its presenting in the way it presents them will strike that cynic's bone in all of us to scoff and dismiss the film as fluff, not truly feminist, or too easily mixed in with the teenage aspects of life. Though, it's refreshing to get this unapologetic stance on feminism. It's especially refreshing to see the much needed intersectionality and welcoming that needs to occur in order for equality to get any sort of foothold. If it's going to continue to be an us against them fight, it needs to include ALL of us.
I rarely talk about behind the scenes things, but in tribute to the earnestness of the film, I have to praise the casting. There is a trans actress playing a trans character. There is a person with disabilities playing a character with disabilities. There are multiple characters representing first generation Americans. There are multiple characters representing biracial people. There are wonderfully accepted queer characters. And for the greater good of all of us there is the ultra cute, crushable Nico Hiraga playing the all too infrequent, tastefully sexualized, Asian-American male romantic lead who is also a tremendous ally, learning and listening along the way.
Credit has to go to director Amy Poehler who is a commanding filmmaker with a strong point of view. Poehler and cinematographer Tom Magill make this film have a confidence in tone and texture as it moves from the serious to the silly and on to the romantic. Poehler and Magill play exquisitely with genre with Julie Monroe as editor, providing just the right cuts to make it sing.
I appreciate Amy Poehler's direction all the more when I noticed someone in the background. A character always mentioned in passing, always whispered about, floating on the edges. A character whose secret is revealed in a strong scene at the climax. She is there the whole time and is suffering in silence. This incredible reveal wouldn't work without the laying of clues that is peppered through the film that when looked back upon is a brilliant idea of not seeing what's in front of us and who is silently screaming as the film's opening dream suggests.
This is a terrific cast, but the lead, Hadley Robinson is truly gifted. She has the great timing, the charm, the presence and the chops. Robinson is natural and earnest making the introverted revolutionary a palpable and palatable reality. I'm looking forward to where her career takes her.
Moxie is not even close to a perfect movie. Though, Moxie is the best kind of movie, a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and has something truly important to say. It's funny, it's sweet, it's frightening and staunch in its depiction of sexual harassment. Moxie is a must see. Now if you'll excuse me I'll be trying to source cool zines and jamming to The Linda Lindas and Bikini Kill for the rest of eternity.