Director: Amy Poehler | 1h 51mins | Comedy, Drama
Sick of the harassment and gender bias at her school Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a quiet teenager on the cusp of going to college, takes inspiration from her Mum’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past and creates a feminist movement called ‘Moxie!’.
Amy Poehler’s second feature is a wonderful teen comedy that challenges the norms that teenage girls are subjected to. It’s personality comes from the no holds barred attachment to the radical-punk feminism movements of yesteryear (a lot of the soundtrack is Bikini Kill), as the small group known as “Moxie!” become the foundation of change in a school rife with gender bias and unnoticed (or ignored) harassment.
The school, and a lot of the characters, fit the archetype of a teen comedy. There’s the jocks, cheerleaders, nerds and just like the film’s protagonist, the ‘outsiders’. But the feeling of cliche is done for a reason, the film is tackling things that are usually brushed off in a normal school environment. For example, (and what sets main character Vivian on her leather jacket wearing rampage) the boys of the school make a public list awarding girls of the school demeaning titles such as “Best Ass” and “Most Bangable”. Something like this may feel immature in the face of global harassment we’ve seen over the years but for Moxie, things like this need to be eradicated because of the risk they portray for young teens everywhere – and the dangerous potential it insights.
There’s wonderful stories being told throughout the film, all of which create the feeling of ensemble and really hit home the idea of sticking together…
At the centre of it all is Vivian, played wonderfully by Hadley Robinson, who’s quiet High School existence with her best friend Claudia (played equally great by Lauren Tsai) is thrown into chaos when she gets a hold of her mum’s old pictures. Her mum, who’s played admirably by Poehler in a supporting role that suits her down to a tee, was a former radicalist who challenged everyone and everything in order to crumble the patriarchy. So, donning her Mother’s leather jacket and her rebellious attitude, Vivian brings together the girls of her school. But, the interesting part here is that it’s the other characters that really give the films message its importance.
Vivian’s rage only begins when she sees the suffering of others, which makes the films use of it’s main character somewhat problematic – but also opens it up to great representation. Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) is a strong presence in the film as the new girl who suffers first-hand from the incredibly evil jock Mitchell, and Claudia tries to adapt to her friends’ newfound openness while dealing with her own issues coming from a strict household. There’s wonderful stories being told throughout the film, all of which create the feeling of ensemble and really hit home the idea of sticking together – whether that be through radical means or just in times of emotional support.
Some may say that Moxie lacks the satirical edge of Mean Girls and even Easy A, but it’s release comes in a time when subtlety isn’t necessary. More than ever we need films like Moxie to unsubtly teach teenagers that the norms they suffer at the hands of gender bias and sexism are not something they need to take on the chin. While the film isn’t without it’s problems, and may not stand the test of time like others of the genre, it still has an incredibly important message to latch onto – and thanks to Poehler – enough humour to make it wholesome and entertaining.