‘I had sex last night. Holy shit!’
From those opening lines, uttered by 15-year-old Minnie Goetze, the tone and content of the film is clear. It might not be to everyone’s taste but this film is a crucial and poignant portrayal of adolescence. It’s also one of the very few films which not only presents an honest deception of female sexulaity and desire, but makes it the primary focus of the film. It does not shy away from showing Minnie’s inner turmoil, and the lust which is consuming and controlling her. It’s isn’t scared to show how tumultuous sex, lust and love can for anyone, especially a fifteen-year old. Most importantly, this is done so in a truthful way told by a distinctive and unconventional voice.
As you may have gathered from the opening line, Minnie has just lost her virginity. Upon arriving home, after a rather self-satisfied strut around the park, she digs out her old voice recorder. Recent events have become so overwhelming for her she requires an outlet, one which will not judge her as friends and family might. For Minnie knows that her first sexual encounter, however good it felt, would not be considered ‘right’. This is because she slept with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), a man who is twenty years older than her. He is also dating her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). The film follows Minnie, in a non-linear fashion, as she rides out an affair with Monroe, lying to her mother and experimenting with her sexuliaty. This is all presented in a manner which is so frank and honest it’s almost wince-inducing at times, with a degree of candor that is refreshing but depressingly rare.
What is perhaps even more depressing is that this film has been given a ’18’ rating, 3 years older than its main protagonist, therefore cutting it off from the audience it deserves and the audience who most deserve it. It’s a frustrating decision, especially with the sex or sexual references that form the foundations of this film are more honest than glorified. The language Minnie uses, and the way her sex-life presented is no worse than what a few choice searches into google could unearth. In fact, the sex in this film is unfiltered in the way that the pornogrpahy that drowns the web isn’t. Our society complains openly, yet in hush-hush tones about the ‘epidemic’ that is sexualising our youth. But why not address the problem with a film like this, which presents these issues but also teaches the viewers how to learn from them. Hollywood is dominated with so many films with negative portrayals of women, who are presented simply as boobs/bums/faces (delete as appropriate) that it seems bitterly unfair that a film which ultimately has a valuable positive message, of self-worth, is restricted to those who may learn from and appreciate it the most.
Though at times the pacing of the film maybe uneven, with some of the plot threads either unexplored or abandoned, it is hugely worth seeing. Not only is it’s content insightful and important, but it’s cinematography is beautiful, mixing the real with the comic book art that dominates Minnie’s life. A totally convincing and refreshing take on a coming-of-age tale.