Moxie is a young adult, coming of age, anarchist, feminist romantic comedy. See the problem? Moxie is a well meaning and enjoyable flick that fails to live up to its potential because of the lack of its focus. The movie can not quite decide what it wants to be, though the clear thematic focus of the movie is feminist. Probably Amy Poehler wanted to create a brand of inclusive feminism that credits the good guys. It diffuses the core focus of the movie, which should have been the coming of age of a shy girl to become a full fledged feminist. On the other hand, this very warm and inclusive nature of the movie that is so endearing and makes it an interesting watch.
Vivian is a shy, 16 year old girl who believes in staying out of trouble by keeping her head down. Surprising. Because her mom, played by Amy herself, is someone who cared mainly about smashing the patriarchy when she was sixteen. Vivian is frustrated by the male dominated school culture that humiliates girl students by ranking them in categories like “Most Bangable”. Vivian finds some zines about feminism and a song that is going to change her life. It is the iconic “Rebel Girl” sung by the feminist punk group Bikini Kill. (Plug alert : The other famous feminist punk group was The Raincoats – Remember Nethra Srinivasan’s Chhatris from Brothers Sen Gogh?). Vivian is inspired enough to start the feminist zine Moxie in the school that is going to change the equation between the boys and the girls of the school.
So far so good. But we then have characters like Seth – who forms a love interest for Vivian, Claudia – who is Vivian’s best buddy, and John, Vivian’s mom’s love interest. We have Vivian’s self doubt and coming of age cliches that dominate the narrative. The shy girls are more powerful trope is also recurrent. None of these are overdone though. The main narrative is about Vivian finding her voice and in the process giving voice to all the girls in the school. It is this main narrative that is very inspiring, very real and watchable. The character of Seth is lovely and most other characters come across as real, though a little stereotypical. The depiction of the school culture is also a little melodramatic and the solutions are typical movie-like solutions. The relationship between Vivian and her mom could have been the driving point of the movie. They are good in some scenes, but lack the chemistry in others, making the influence of her mom a little doubtful.
All in all, it is a very good movie if your intention is to have clean and good entertainment for a couple of hours and be educated about the Riot Girrl movement. If you bother about cinematic art – a.k.a. Scorsese – this may not be the movie for you. Teens would love the movie. Feminists may not. I loved it because I love any movie that tries to capture the timeless magic of punk rock. I hope more girls become interested in Kathleen Hanna and her music, not only Bikini Kill, but Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin. If you are interested in Kathleen Hanna, please do watch “The Punk Singer”, a fabulous biopic about an Riot Girrl icon.
I give the movie 3/5 for the magical coming of age moments, the depiction of the magic of friendship, the chemistry between Seth and Vivian, the art of the zines and the overall “Keep you head high” tone of the movie. I am a sucker for coming of age movies, because they can marry ideology and narrative in a way that sounds convincing, and from that perspective Moxie does not disappoint. I also love the theme of using music to find your voice – a.k.a. “Blinded By Light” – and Moxie lives up to that theme as well.
If your interest in girl punk is aroused by this movie, do listen to The Raincoats, L7, The Julie Ruin, Sleater Kinney, X – the band, Blondie, Siouxsie and the Banshees and X-Ray Spex, besides the iconic Bikini Kill the movie mentions.