DIRECTED BY: Amy Poehler
STARRING: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Peña, Nico Hiraga, Sydney Park, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Amy Poehler, Sabrina Haskett, Anjelika Washington, Ike Barinholtz, Marcia Gay Harden, Clark Cregg, Joshua Walker, Josie Totah, Charlie Hall, Emily Hopper, Darrell M. Davie and Josephine Langford
Inspired by her mother’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy sixteen-year-old publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.
Vivian, a seemingly shy sixteen-year-old, has always preferred to keep her head down and fly under the radar. But when the arrival of a new student forces her to examine the unchecked behaviour of her fellow students running rampant at her high school, Vivian realises she’s fed up. Inspired by her mother’s rebellious past, Vivian anonymously publishes an underground zine called Moxie to expose bias and wrongdoing in her high school, and unexpectedly sparks a movement.
Moxie is the film adaptation of Jennifer Mathieu’s novel, adapted by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, and directed by Amy Poehler. The film focuses on Vivian Carter, a shy sixteen-year-old who returns for another year at Rockport High. Vivian has always flew under the radar, but with the arrival of new student, Lucy Hernandez, she notices how she’s been picked on by fellow student and quarterback of the football team, Mitchell Wilson, and when an inappropriate list is made public amongst the year group during a pep rally, she realises that she’s fed up with how everyone has just accepted it. Inspired by her mother’s rebellious past and her riot grrrl memorabilia, Vivian anonymously publishes an underground zine called Moxie which exposes the bias and wrongdoing in her school, placing them in the girls bathrooms and school, sparking a movement. Now at the centre of a revolution, Vivian begins to forge new relationships with other young women and allies, reaching across the divide of cliques and clubs as they learn to navigate the highs and lows of High School together.
Moxie is a coming-of-age tale exploring feminism within a school setting and how the journey is forever expanding beyond one point-of-view, as Vivian’s zine breaks through the stereotypical school cliques and friend groups to create a miniature uprising at Rockport High. Moxie balance the fine line between not being openly preachy and being brushed simply as ‘wokeism’ (or being too woke, if such a word doesn’t exist), and that’s due to Poehler’s directing of allowing the acting ensemble to bring life to the characters, along with a somewhat well measured adapted screenplay by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer. Hadley Robinson gives a good performance as Vivian Carter, an introvert who comes out of her shadow to make a stance and yet with her intentions being good, she’s still flawed as, in arguably one of the more interesting angles in the film, she has such a focus on making a drastic change with Moxie, that her friendship with lifelong friend Claudia becomes fractured in the process as she spends more time around Lucy and the rest of the group, and we see how the two come to blows about it, while also showing how they each take a stance in their own way, particularly how Claudia points out Vivian’s heritage in the movement as Principal Shelly begins to take some swift action towards Moxie.
Hico Hiraga might be the films highlight here with his performance as Vivian’s love interest and Moxie ally Seth Acosta, who arguably throughout this film I feel like I’ve watched so many of this teenage/school setting films that I was waiting for him to have a bad streak in him but outside of a rather peculiar venue to get Vivian alone so that the two get to know each other more personally, he’s pretty much the poster boy for how boys/young men can be an ally. Lauren Tsai gives a good performance as Claudia, though I felt like she got sidelined for a bit too long in the film, but can see narrative wise why it made sense. Alycia Pascaul-Peña gives a really good performance as Lucy, who arrives as a new student at Rockport High and immediately calls out on the behaviour that’s been enabled at the school. Sydney Park and Anjelika Washington also give good performances as Kiera and Amaya, players of the school’s soccer team. Patrick Schwarzenegger gives a good performance as the stereotypical jock asshole that can literally get away with anything he does on school grounds due to his status, and especially how he weaponises the words of Moxie by branding them a cult.
While the film clearly has good intentions, the issues that it raises doesn’t feel like it’s well-rounded with its execution, primarily as we get the majority of the fallout reactions from Vivian herself, rather than the group of girls around her. Case in point is something happens that revolves around Mitchell coming out on top again, and while we get brief reactions of the group, it’s Vivian that we follow through the fallout after rather than the classmate involved. There’s some interesting characters who have their own concerns of getting by at Rockport High, with disabled student Meg being pushed to the background of the music band, to Kiera and Amaya playing for the soccer team who are more successful than the boys football team but don’t receive the allocation and fame that they do, and trans student CJ who experiences people at the school, including some teachers, refusing to call her by her new name, but unfortunately they’re just lightly developed characters that might be further fleshed out if the novel was adapted as a limited series. In the films climax it takes a darker, more serious tone and while it feels authentic with its buildup to that moment, the way that it’s handled feels incredibly rushed and executed in such a underwhelming matter, to have that followed by a happy, get together dance number, might actually damage the good intentions they build during the hour and forty minutes leading up to it.
Moxie is a decent film with an interesting message to tell, with some good performances amongst the cast including Hadley Robinson, Alycia Pascual-Peña and Nico Hiraga, but it just comes up short at the final hurdle.
MOXIE WILL BE AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON NETFLIX ON 3RD MARCH 2021.