sat 20/07/2024

Moxie review - likeable if confused high school comedy | reviews, news & interviews

Moxie review - likeable if confused high school comedy

Moxie review - likeable if confused high school comedy

Amy Poehler's sophomore directing effort is both winning and wayward

Rebel women: Amy Poehler and Hadley Robinson in 'Moxie'

A teen comedy with a thematic difference, Moxie has enough memorable moments to firmly establish comedian Amy Poehler as a director worth reckoning with in what is her second film, following Wine Country in 2019.

Telling of the teenage Vivian's coming-of-age as a rebel against the landscape of #MeToo, the Netflix movie goes enough of the way towards transforming this genre's familiar tropes that one only wishes it had enough, well, moxie to go still further. 

There's undeniable pleasure to be had from the collective awakening that transforms the female student body of Rockport High in a narrative that sometimes feels like a more politicised Lady Bird but pulls back just when it's getting really interesting. Poehler has given herself the choice supporting role of a onetime activist, Lisa, who is now a single mum to the gently radicalised Vivian (Hadley Robinson), an indrawn student busy discovering boyfriends and sex on her own who isn't altogether pleased with her mother's choice of mate in the kind-seeming Paul. (Clark Gregg is gently endearing as that new flame first seen unable to tell chives from leeks at the grocery store.)Hadley Robinson and Lauren Tsai in 'Moxie'Away from home, Vivian is ensnared in the tangled web that goes with such stories: a resident heavy in the good-looking but fundamentally bad-natured football star Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold, expertly cast); a bestie, Claudia (Lauren Tsai, pictured with Robinson above), who risks being cast aside when Vivian falls in with the cool kids; and a school principal, Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden, the Oscar-winner representing luxury casting for such a pro forma role), who would like fundamentally to keep the peace even as adolescent hormones and galloping social upheaval dictate otherwise at every turn. To her credit, she's savvy enough to clock the "tornado" gathering pace in the world around her. 

Vivian is also getting to grips with her attraction to "Seth the shrimp," who has grown quite a bit since she saw him last and now represents her own introduction, at once sweet and awkward, into the byways of romance: Nico Hiraga is especially good in that essentially stock part, finding a quiet eloquence in teenage confusion. 

Where this adaptation of a 2017 Young Adult novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu falters is in the overreach of Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer's script. You note the genuine tension in the first bristling encounter between the cocksure Mitchell and new student Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena), a distemper that would seem on some level to be attributable to race - or maybe not - and the invocation of The Great Gatsby is cleverly judged. Suffice it to say that Lucy is fully onboard once Vivian, the student voted "most obedient" in her school's invidious "rankings", takes a leaf from her own mum's activist past and starts producing a feminist zine by the name of Moxie that before long has galvanised the student body. (The "ranking" issue, by the way, recalls those passages in The Social Network that explain how Facebook ever got started.) 

But whereas intersectionality and #MeToo inform people's speech and actions, the movie essentially does little besides pay lip service to the zeitgeist, returning instead to the inevitably feel-good ending that patches up whatever relationships have been seen to go sour and ensuring that the studly Mitchell gets his comeuppance. The eleventh-hour inclusion of a rape charge tilts events in a direction that the film can't really handle, and one feels a widening chasm between the vaunted inclusivity of a movie that commendably wants to cast as broad a net as possible and the ongoing demands of a genre in which tidiness for good or ill must reign supreme. 


Whereas intersectionality and #MeToo inform people's speech and actions, the movie essentially does little besides pay lip service to the zeitgeist


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters