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Review: The Diary of A Teenage Girl 

Don't expect another Lolita tale


The brash, R-rated cousin to the summer’s other wonderful coming-of-age story, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows teenager Minnie Goetze through an auspicious sexual awakening atop the hills of San Francisco in the 1970s. Completely of her own accord, Minnie (Bel Powley, a terrific UK find) decides to take up with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) 35-year-old boyfriend, played by Alexander Skarsgard with the right mix of neo-hippie faux-sensitive lechery—always beware a moustache—and flips the Lolita thing onto its dumb head. Minnie’s openness, assertiveness—especially for a teen who counts herself as a rebel outsider and continually insists upon her unattractiveness—and self-knowledge combine for a remarkable portrayal of full-blown adolescence not seen in a long time, if ever. (Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways attempted this edgy, period-blood-spotted, ’70s girl-power movie but didn’t pull it off.) Marielle Heller, directing a script she adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s novel, frames the many sex scenes with the female gaze, conscious of displaying Minnie’s self-discovery without exploiting her physically. (Note from the uptights: Minnie is 15, but Powley is 23). The Diary of A Teenage Girl moves in a sun-drenched haze, spattered with animation, thrilling in its very mundanity. It’s smart and assured and, like Minnie, knows what it wants. Astonishing.

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