After the tasty feel-good comedy “Wine Country”, comedian Amy Poehler brings out the tougher guns in her second feature film as a director. For the film adaptation of the bestseller MOXIE. TIME TO FIGHT BACK she takes up the currently omnipresent topic of modern feminism. And it hits the mark. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Moxie (USA 2021)
The plot summary
Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a shy 16-year-old, usually walks around with her head down and tries not to attract attention as much as possible. However, when the arrival of a new student (Alycia Pascual-Peña) forces her to take a closer look at the unruly behavior of her high school classmates, Vivian realizes that she has finally had enough. Inspired by her mother’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past, she anonymously publishes an underground magazine called Moxie, denouncing questionable behavior and transgressions in high school. Completely unexpectedly, she starts a movement. Suddenly Vivian finds herself at the center of a revolution and forges new friendships with other young women and fellow activists across all cliques and clubs, with whom she overcomes the ups and downs of everyday high school life.
Jennifer Mathieu’s coming-of-age novel “Moxie” is already over six years old; In the fast-moving pop culture, that can be a short eternity. However, in 2015, the author was already well ahead of the topics and problems addressed therein. At that time, it would still be two years before the hashtag #MeToo in October 2017 would set in motion a women’s rights movement with a focus on female equality that is still ongoing today, with films such as “The Assistant” more or less directly in its wake. , “Bombshell – The End of Silence” and “Promising Young Woman” were released. At least in Hollywood there currently seems to be signs of a radical (creative) restructuring. You notice this not only in the material, which increasingly deals with female main characters and their perspectives, but also in the increased perception and reception of them. Three out of eight films in the Oscar’s top category of “Best Film” in 2021 are by women, and two of them are also nominated in the “Best Director” category, which has a total of five slots. There has never been this much female power at the Academy Awards – a trend that is both pleasant and groundbreaking.
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) and Claudia (Lauren Tsai) have been best friends since early childhood.
The template of “Moxie. Time to fight back” may not have been directly influenced by the current #MeToo zeitgeist. Director Amy Poehler (“Wine Country”) and her screenwriters Tamara Chestna (“After Passion”) and Dylan Meyer (“XOXO”) In their film adaptation of the same name, they emphasize how timeless the themes discussed in it are. Your coming-of-age teen drama is not a typical “problem film” that deals with the consequences of a traumatic stroke of fate; In view of the numerous post-#MeToo films, one might sometimes get the impression that creative people only find female protagonists relevant once something bad happens to them. Instead, “Moxie” would make an excellent double feature with Olivia Wilde’s highly acclaimed directorial debut “Booksmart.” Her film is also about strong, female main characters who proudly promote female empowerment without trying to be pedagogical. What both films have in common is that their protagonists have clearly formulated concerns and ideals that they push through without regard to losses (and genre mechanisms!). Both films are not subject to any visible agenda and yet at the end you have the feeling that you can understand the emotional states of the main characters down to the last detail. Both Amy and Molly in “Booksmart” and Vivian and her friends in “Moxie” are excellent identification figures for young people.
“’Moxie’ is not a typical “problem film” that deals with the consequences of a traumatic stroke of fate; “In view of the numerous post-#MeToo films, one might sometimes get the impression that creative people only find female protagonists relevant once something bad happens to them.”
That they are in “Moxie. Time to strike back” issues feel so true to life and anything but constructed is due to Amy Poehler’s restrained production. Although the film’s feminist streak shines through from the beginning, with Amy Poehler playing her part in the supporting role of Vivian’s feminist mother (“When I was your age, I wanted to destroy the patriarchy!”), the director resists the temptation to dramatize her observations. Told primarily from Moxie’s perspective, the young girl and her friend are interested in completely different things at the beginning of the new school year than the idea of feminism that later increasingly comes into focus. “Moxie” is – unlike the Netflix drama “Dead Girls Don’t Lie”, which also draws attention to interpersonal grievances in US schools – not a film that digs into the wound with a salty finger and is set in a thoroughly toxic environment. The characters at the center here are, on the whole, content young people for whom the idea of a feminist rebel movement is initially primarily linked to a fun “Let’s see how much we achieve?” thought. But over time, out of this curiosity, the girls begin to develop a sense for subtle female oppression and simmering sexism. And once you become aware of this, you suddenly perceive many of the practices at Vivian’s school in a completely different way.
Seth (Nico Hiraga) has his eye on Vivian…
The fact that young girls with large busts are not allowed to wear spaghetti strap tops while their male classmates are allowed to sit topless in class is almost the most superficial exposure of the bigoted US value system. However, when one of the girls goes to the principal out of fear of being harassed by a classmate and is promptly rebuffed by her (she shouldn’t see it all so narrowly, as a teenager you are sometimes a little cheeky), the reasons are there Structural sexism (not only) in American schools is clearly evident. “Moxie. Time to Fight Back” takes a look at the small, seemingly insignificant habits in everyday life; between teachers and students and, even more so, between the students themselves. The enthusiasm that Vivian and her constantly growing, diverse following of angry classmates (yes, in “Moxie” some boys also join the rebel movement!) is enormously contagious and “Moxie”, despite its serious concerns , making it a feel-good film until the end. Someone whose carefree way of dealing with problems touches the hearts all the more when the girls and boys feel from time to time that reality is actually quite bitter and that the world is far from changing with a few catchy slogans leaves.
“The fact that young girls with large busts are not allowed to wear spaghetti strap tops while their female classmates are allowed to sit topless in class is almost the most superficial exposure of the bigoted American value system.”
The fact that the script of “Moxie” has one or two predictable developments in the last few meters can be easily overcome if you contrast this downer with the smart constellation of characters. In addition to the unrecognized Moxie founder Vivian, numerous young girls raise their voices against the injustice that affects each of them individually. While Alycia Pascual-Pena (“Saved the Bell”) In the role of Lucy, who stands up for the rights of African-American women and girls, plays Lauren Tsai (“Legion”) Vivian’s best friend Claudia, who faces unexpected family problems as a result of her involvement in the Moxie movement; Addressing different cultures and their approach to the topic of femininity was particularly important to the authors, although it is debatable to what extent they tend to confirm clichés rather than actively deal with them. Nevertheless, the impression remains until the end: “Moxie. Time to Fight Back” is, first and foremost, a film by women for women – and for all people who love women (or at least don’t want to deny them their equal rights).
Conclusion: In Amy Poehler’s “Moxie. Time to Fight Back” meets heartfelt female empowerment with a fundamentally likeable coming-of-age story that brings us closer to the high school cosmos from a female perspective.
“Moxie. Time to Fight Back” is now available to stream on Netflix.