Moxie (4 stars)

Moxie

Amy Poehler directs and flanks a fantastic young cast in this cheeringly feminist teen flick

American teen flicks ain't what they used to be and for all the right reasons, with Blockers, Lady Bird, The DUFF, Booksmart, Bad Neighbours 2 and more letting their feminist flags fly proudly, whilst not taking themselves too seriously. The latest film to pepper its righteous crusade with plenty of light-heartedness is the second feature from much-loved comedian Amy Poehler, who is following up 2019's enjoyable but indulgent Wine Country.

If Wine Country gathered together Poehler's peers and collaborators to interrogate and ridicule middle-age, it's nice to see that she also has the back of younger women. Based on Jennifer Mathieu's YA novel, Moxie is a film that draws attention to the push-back that has followed the MeToo movement, and which highlights the challenges of countering both stubborn traditions (the huge bias toward male high school football, for example) and modern menaces (with social media providing a powerful new platform for bullying and objectification).

It also shows you don't need a loud voice to speak out. Inspired by the self-possession of newcomer Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), who stands up to cock-of-the-walk football captain Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger – yes, he's Arnie's son) and challenges the school's stance on intimidation, the timid Vivian (Hadley Robinson) channels her rising anger into a feminist zine, which strikes a chord with the female students. Although the mag in question, 'Moxie', is published anonymously, Vivian inadvertently finds herself at the forefront of a movement.

Moxie is less enjoyably brash than Booksmart, opting for a more sensitive but never too sentimental tack. It's funny, recognisable and sincere, with Robinson – who closely resembles a young Kirsten Dunst – adding plenty of nuance to her portrayal of a terrified and courageous young woman, and she's well supported by a charismatic and diverse supporting cast. There's an adorable romance with male ally Seth (Nico Hiraga) and tension arises when Vivian's childhood bestie Claudia (Lauren Tsai) feels left behind. Best of all is Vivian's touching dynamic with her former rabble-rouser mom (Poehler herself, keeping scene-stealing to a minimum), which shows how each generation of women can give a hand to the next, and how the fight, sadly, never ends.

Available to watch on Netflix from Wed 3 Mar.

Moxie

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 51min
  • Directed by: Amy Poehler
  • Written by: Tamara Chestna, Dylan Meyer
  • Cast: Hadley Robinson, Josephine Langford, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Lauren Tsai
  • UK release: 3 March 2021

A shy, 16-year-old is tired of the toxic environment at her highschool. Taking inspiration from her mother's defiant past, she anonymously publishes a zine that starts school-wide revolution.

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