It was our last day at Sundance Film Festival and with the movie selections winding down, we made our way to Salt Lake City to see The Diary of a Teenage Girl, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig.
Going into the theater, I was prepared for the movie and the taboo subject it would present. Based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows the sexual discovery of a 15 year old (Bell Powley) in San Francisco during the 70s when she begins to have an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Having Lolita on my list of favorite books of all time, I felt as comfortable as one could be with the idea of following yet another story of a girl getting involved with a man in his mid thirties. But what Lolita leaves to the imagination with Vladimir Nabokov’s flawless narration, Diary of a Teenage Girl exposes without limitations, all the while lightening the predicament with the girl’s quirky inner dialogue, leaving the audience uncomfortable yet entertained with the forbidden relationship.
It was one of the few times where Josh and I disagreed in our liking of a movie during Sundance. Our opinions were so different we decided to record our review on our way back. For the entire review and day vlog, click on the video!
I still consider Lolita to be a superior story, both in its complexity and intrigue, but comparing it with this film wouldn’t be accurate. Though both stories focus on pedophilia, they have different perspectives on it. Neither suggests that it should be condoned but while Lolita summons the demons of the main character, Humbert, Diary of a Teenage Girl exposes the unique and humorous mind of the young girl and in turn doesn’t have such a grave tone. Lolita is seen through Humbert’s eyes and his complete adoration for her while Diary is narrated by Minnie and he fascination for her first lover. Their graphic love scenes are meant to make you uncomfortable but because it’s told through her, the story is more about the enjoyment of her sexual awakening, the loss of her innocence and her emotional struggles when she hands her self-worth to others.
The movie was awarded Best Cinematography at Sundance Film Festival and rightfully so. It is picturesque and reminiscent of the hippie San Francisco of the 70s, with a yellow tint and discoloration that feels warm and nostalgic. The performance is excellent and British newcomer Bel Powley has a stunning film debut. It is a movie to watch by yourself, or someone you are comfortable with, an intimate yet humorous ride through a teenager’s want for affection, experimentation and discovery of herself.