Walking into the screening of Diary of a Teenage Girl, I had a crush on actor Alexander Skarsgard. Leaving the theater, I felt like I needed to report him to a predator hotline. Allow me to explain.
In the new film Diary of a Teenage Girl- based on the Phoebe Gloeckner novel- it is the summer of 1976 in San Francisco and Minnie Goetze is a 15 year-old who has just had sex. She records all of her activities with an old school tape recorder, telling her most intimate secrets to a cassette tape. With a beautiful, but usually trashed mother (Kristen Wiig), Minnie is often left to her own devices and her artwork. One night after her mother has gone to bed, Minnie finds herself accidentally groped by her mother’s mid-thirtyish boyfriend, Monroe (Alexand Skarsgard). Instead of reporting this to her mother, Minnie finds herself fantasizing about the much older Monroe. When her mother decides to stay in with Minnie’s other sister one night, Minnie accompanies Monroe to a local bar and tells him that she wants him to “f*ck her.” While nothing happens that night, Monroe happily obliges in taking Minnie’s virginity, and then sneaking around her mother’s back to continue having sex with the young teenager. Minnie explores other avenues for sex, as Monroe occasionally feigns a need to stop before quickly changing his mind and returning to his under-age sexual activity. Minnie begins to explore her sexuality, experiments with drugs, and even pretends to be a hooker with her best friend. In one scene, the two perform oral sex on complete strangers they meet at a bar. After her former stepfather, Pascal (Christopher Meloni) begins to suspect something is terribly wrong, he tries to get Minnie to tell him what’s happening and later reports his feelings to Minnie’s mother. Minnie’s mother confronts Monroe, but he quickly makes her feel she is acting crazy. It is only when Minnie’s Mother finds the tapes that she knows what has been occurring under her roof, and Minnie must struggle to figure out who she is in the process.
The film attempts to parallel the events of Patty Hearst and the SLA with Minnie’s experiences with Monroe, and that is painfully telling. At one point, Minnie comments that it was stupid of Hearst to fall in love with her abusers, and yet that is what Minnie is doing. Monroe attempting to gaslight Minnie’s mother is equally horrifying, as he is doing everything in his power to make the woman ignore her fears about her daughter’s sexual abuse. And don’t be fooled, this is abuse friends. While Minnie might seem like a miniature adult, her decision making processes are clearly horribly skewed. The only real voice of reason in the entire film is Pascal, and by then it is much too little too late.
To say this movie made me uncomfortable is the ultimate understatement. While thankfully the sex scene where Monroe takes Minnie’s virginity is more alluded to than shown, the film quickly divulges into grotesque sex scene after sex scene. We see Monroe take her in a variety of sexual positions, each time showing her develop more of a relationship with the much older man. And where is Minnie’s mother? Most of the time, she is drunk, stoned, or with her friends. Minnie is never once shown to use protection and I found myself praying that this fictional character wouldn’t get a horrible STD or pregnant. I am all for women discovering their sexuality and being sex positive, but I can’t approve of a 35 year-old man having sex with the 15 year-old daughter of his girlfriend.
The one redeeming quality of the film is Minnie’s discovery of artist Aline Kominsky. It is through her comics that Minnie finally starts to discover a past time that isn’t having unprotected sex. She writes to Kominsky, and Kominsky writes back. This helps spark an interest in drawing that pulls Minnie into a more confident state of mind.
Nearly every woman who walked out of the screening looked shell-shocked, and I don’t blame them. If you’ve experienced sexual trauma or have teenage girls, this is the film you should skip this Summer.
Diary of a Teenage Girl is in theaters August 7, 2015.