Vivian, the protagonist of Amy Poehler’s Moxie, starts the film timid, quietly submitting to the high school superlative of “most obedient”, and by the end of the film she is clad in a leather jacket confidently leading a protest outside the gates of her school. The story in between is engineered empowerment complete with Bikini Kill needle drops.

Based on the Jennifer Mathieu novel of the same name, Moxie follows a troupe of high school girls who grow increasingly uncomfortable with the power wielded and abused by the men at school. Spurred by her mothers’ stories of a rebellious youth, Vivian releases the first issue of Moxie – a feminist zine stacked in the girl’s bathroom. It’s unclear what is contained within Moxie, but it sets the school alight. Girls from every clique are drawn together, united through the workings of often predictable plot machinations. And this is indicative of a central problem with the film, which feels like it is disassembling the dramatic stakes in favour of verbally constructing the tenets of feminism.

Moxie’s story is further deflated by its dialogue, which feels ill at ease in the landscape of teenage vernacular. Yet, oddly, this stiltedness works to serve the love story between Vivian and Seth – which is undoubtedly the most charming aspect of the film. The two stumble around one another, building a connection through poorly concealed smiles and purposeful nudges.

The best version of this story is one that balances the warmth of newfound female comradery with a sharp satirical eye that draws attention to the small, demanding ways in which young women are belittled and abused. Instead, what we have is something much more sentimental and far less insightful.

Moxie is an occasionally lovely but largely unfocused teen dramedy. Boasting just a few flashes of inspiration, the film is a harmless, sweet mess.



CAST: Hadley Robinson, Amy Poehler, Alycia Pascual-Peña, Lauren Tsai, Nico Hiraga

DIRECTOR: Amy Poehler

WRITER: Tamara Chestna

SYNOPSIS: Moxie follows Vivian, a subdued teenager who starts a feminist zine in response tothe power wielded and abused by the men at school.