Moxie – Review

Moxie NetlfixI don’t think there could have been a more pertinent time for a film like Moxie to arrive on Netflix. On social media platforms, on video calls and on WhatsApp messages, women (and men) up and down the country are talking about being cat called, sexual harassment and “reclaiming” the streets. Conversations about how we educate men and women – from school age – as to how to treat each other with respect tie neatly into this teen drama.

So, it’s a real shame that Amy Poehler’s directorial debut doesn’t quite use the platform to the fullest extent. What could have been a really powerful statement about self-worth, standing up for a cause and women’s rights somehow gets lost in the melee of twee speeches and tokenism.

The film centres around Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a shy high school student determined to keep her head down and just make it to college. However, the increasingly toxic and misogynistic ethos of her school sparks her interest in her mother’s (Amy Poehler) past as a teen rebel and protestor. Soon, she begins anonymously publishing Moxie, a magazine calling out all the bad behaviour she sees and encouraging other girls to do the same.

There are some moments in the film that will make you feel empowered or refreshed. But, largely, the dialogue feels like a motivational quote from Instagram and the characters are really lacking any depth. Given that Vivian inspires social revolution, you would think she would have a little spark about her. Instead, her character is bland and whiny; thinking that wearing a leather jacket makes her edgy.

The character of Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) is much more interesting and empowering, yet she is relegating to a supporting role in Vivian’s story. The film talks about inclusion and diversity but disabled and trans characters are pushed to the periphery; their stories never explored. Instead, the film is told from the perspective a middle-class white girl, who doesn’t even understand the struggles of her best friend, who is a first generation immigrant.

I will give kudos, however, to Patrick Schwarzenegger, for creating a character so smug and unlikeable that I had to stop myself from reaching through the screen to punch him senseless. He plays the chauvinist creep, Mitchell, to perfection. Even his smirk is infuriating.

Marcia Gay Harden and Ike Barinholtz – as the head teacher and English teacher, respectively – are equally infuriating as the so-called adults of the situation. They pander to Mitchell’s sporting success and are willing to either criminalise or ignore the pleas of the girls at every step. I don’t know if this was meant to be a plot line to highlight how we should believe women or stop sexualising girls’ bodies but … it kind of fell flat. I just couldn’t believe two thoroughly inept adults were in positions of authority.

Moxie NetlfixMoxie throws every type of toxic female experience at the viewer – from being told that a tank top is too revealing to being “rated” by the boys in school. It talks about having to work twice as hard to “take your seat at the table”. There’s even a truly shocking rape storyline thrown in within the last five minutes. The problem is that none of these experiences are properly explored. They are simply discussed, resolved and then we move on to the next issue.

The film rushes through so much content in its 1 hour and 50 minutes run time that nothing really has the chance to have an impact. Had they focused on just one or two issues – and showed how these demonstrated a more diverse group of young women – it might have really been able to hammer a message or two home. Which, given the current circumstances, could have been particularly powerful for any young men and women watching.

I really wanted to like this film. I wanted it to spark conversations about behavioural red flags and women’s rights. I wanted it to encourage and inspire young men and women to call out inequality wherever they saw it.

Instead, it all feels a bit rushed and a bit twee.

Moxie is currently streaming on Netflix.

Mary Munoz
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