Film & TV

Amy Poehler’s ‘Moxie’ is an Awkward Yet Engaging Feminist Flick

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Director: Amy Poehler
Date: March 3, 2021

PG-13 | 1 hour 51 minutes

Netflix’s latest teen movie, “Moxie” is based on Jennifer Mathiu’s novel of the same name, was released on March 3. The film is directed by and stars Amy Poehler as Lisa, a former teen rebel whose past inspires her daughter Vivian.

Vivian Carter (Hadley Robinson) and her best friend, Claudia (Lauren Tsai), are quiet and naive juniors at Rockport High. But when the new and outspoken Lucy Hernandez (Alycia Pascual-Peña) comes to town, Vivian starts to open her eyes to the unfair and harmful ways in which the girls at her school are treated.

Inspired by both Lucy and her mom’s rebellious past, Vivian starts a zine she dubs “Moxie,” in which she calls out how the girls at her school are abused by the system and many of their male classmates, especially football captain Mitchell Wilson (Patrick Schwarzenegger). 

“Moxie” deals with subjects high school girls are all too familiar with, including unfair and sexist dress codes, favoring men’s athletics over women’s, harassment and even rape. The film starts off strong, depicting these problems very realistically, particularly the way in which the school handles (or rather ignores) these issues.

Courtesy of Netflix The film released on Netflix March 3.

When Lucy goes to Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden) about how Mitchell is harasing her, Shelly responds with “If you use that word, that means I have to do a bunch of stuff but if he’s bothering you, and that’s what it sounds like to me, then we can actually have a conversation.”

Of course, even after they have this conversation, nothing is done about Mitchell’s behavior. 

Then there’s the annual list curated by Mitchell and his posse in which they rank the girls at school, and give them degrading titles including “Most Bangable,” “Best Ass,” and “Best Rack.” After Lucy receives a terribly offensive title on the list because she stood up against Mitchell, Vivian is outraged and becomes the anonymous writer of “Moxie.”

Soon, “Moxie” becomes more than just an anonymous zine and evolves into a group of students rallying for change at Rockford High. Complete with school protests and sharpie hearts and stars drawn on their hands to symbolize their support, the core storyline of the women in the student body coming together was, in general, well executed.

But while the film is engaging and inspiring, it tries too hard to cover too many storylines.

There are individual aspects of “Moxie” that are forced and struggle to make sense within the film. The movie starts out with a dream sequence that Vivian has, but it’s only revisited at the very end of the film. Vivian is also seen working on a college essay question regarding something she cares about — a plotline dropped shortly after it’s introduced. 

There is a moment where Vivian is lashing out at her mother, and she expresses her anger and sadness as to why her father never spends Christmas with them. This could have contributed to deeper character development of both Lisa and Vivian but ends up being the only time her father is even mentioned in the entire film.

The movie tries to cover many different feminist issues, but tends to feel too forced, as if its writers were trying to get everything on their list mentioned. At the end of the film especially, these points feel rushed.

While the film is a bit awkward in the way it deals with some subjects, overall it’s worth the watch. It’s a unique story about a student body coming together to deal with relevant and serious issues. The acting is also well done, with a standout performance by Pascual-Peña as Lucy.

“Moxie” is rated PG-13 and can be streamed on Netflix.

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