Moxie has heart but lacks the smarts to make much of an impact
*ing: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Nico Hiraga, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Poehler, and Marcia Gay Harden
Direction: Amy Poehler
Tagline: Find your voice
fter making her directorial debut with 2019’s Wine Country, Amy Poehler returns to the director’s chair for Moxie, a rebel girl comedy drama that explores adolescence and feminism.
Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu, the movie tells the tale of a girl who, inspired by her feminist mother, starts a revolution at her school.
As the film begins, we meet teenager Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who is meekly navigating her way through high school. The arrival of an opinionated new student, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), and the subsequent bullying and harassment she witnesses, inspire Vivian to take action.
Influenced by Riot Grrrl, the underground punk movement of her mother’s (Poehler) era, the protagonist anonymously starts a zine called Moxie, calling out the unfair treatment of girls at her school. Her targets include problematic people like obnoxious jock Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and complacent principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden). The publication inspires the female students to rise up. The ensuing events challenge Vivian’s friendship with her bestie Claudia (Lauren Tsai), and earn her support from classmate and love interest Seth (Nico Hiraga), who knows she started the zine.
To its credit, Moxie is a well-meaning effort that explores important topics and aims to empower young girls. But its execution falls rather flat.
The interesting premise meets a weak story as the film quickly throws too many characters and ideas into the mix, and then doesn’t handle them with any level of deft. Vivian doesn’t make the most compelling protagonist. It always feels like she is surrounded by more intriguing – and to the writers’ credit - diverse individuals who deserve focus but are instead relegated to the background.
The film’s tone is too unsubtle, self-important and unconvincing to be charming, and for a supposed comedy drama, Moxie isn’t particularly amusing.
The movie exists in the shadow of significantly better coming-of-age dramedies that have been released recently and that easily eclipse this effort. Moxie is neither as deep or subtle as the far more memorable Eighth Grade, nor as sharp as films like Ladybird and Booksmart. Instead, it comes off as a forced attempt to capitalize on the popularity the genre has seen because of the success of the aforementioned projects.
All in all, Moxie is sweet, well-intentioned, and sporadically entertaining, but it ultimately feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. We have already seen several smarter, more powerful adolescent dramedies in the last few years, and perhaps that is why Moxie leaves us with the sense that Poehler and her team could have done so much more – intriguing developments, touching drama, sharp satire – with this project.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection