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Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Amy Poehler
scr Tamara Chestna, Dylan Meyer
prd Kim Lessing, Morgan Sackett, Amy Poehler
with Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Amy Poehler, Marcia Gay Harden, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Ike Barinholtz, Sydney Park, Josephine Langford, Anjelika Washington, Clark Gregg
release US/UK 3.Mar.21
21/US Netflix 1h50
Is it streaming?
Smart and pointed, this comedy centres on teen girls who take a stand against sexist society. It's a coming-of-age film with a #MeToo difference, a lively inversion of Mean Girls that explores the awakening of a social conscience rather than a cute romance. Although there's that too. With a snappy script and witty direction, the movie quickly gets under the skin, telling an engaging story while igniting righteous anger.
As she starts 11th grade, Vivian (Robinson) and her lifelong best pal Claudia (Tsai) are applying to universities and catching up with their friends. Some have changed, like the suddenly tall and hot Seth (Hiraga), while others haven't, including smug jock Mitchell (Schwarzenegger), who still rules the high school. When Mitchell cruelly harasses new student Lucy (Pascual-Pena), Principal Shelly (Harden) tries to brush it off. But Vivian takes inspiration from the radical past life of her single mother Lisa (Poehler). Anonymously printing activist zine Moxie!, Vivian leads a revolution against the school's male-dominated culture.
It's easy to understand why an appalling series of sexist behaviours push Vivian into action. And after suffering an attack of nerves, she realises the power of camaraderie in the name of a cause that's both more nuanced and further reaching than she thought it was. The script cleverly finds unexpected angles on the issue while recounting a story that remains strongly personal. And each relationship on-screen bristles with energy as it takes various twists and turns. Including one emotional moment that's seriously important.
This is a strong ensemble cast. At the centre, Robinson has unexpected complexity as a reluctant hero with a secret identity, grappling with her newfound power in a way that's honest and provocative. She plays Vivian's internal life beautifully, as well as her shifting friendship with Tsai's Claudia, who has her own issues at home. Meanwhile, Hiraga is so charming that he often seems too good to be true. And there's terrific support from Poehler, Harden, Barinholtz (as a teacher) and Gregg (as Lisa's suitor).
The key point is that women shouldn't have to ignore boorish behaviour from men. "Sticks and stones," Principal Shelly intones, highlighting the depth of the problem. Along with gender, the film knowingly addresses issues relating to race, ethnicity and body image, while the story depicts how important it is to find friends who support us and understand our passions. And perhaps most important is the reminder that sometimes you have to loose a few battles in order to win a war.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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