REVIEW: ‘Moxie’ Has Heart But Isn’t Focused

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Moxie
Content Warning: This film has themes regarding sexual assault and rape concerning minors

Moxie is a Netflix Original teen comedy directed by Amy Poehler, and written by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer. Moxie is about a high school junior named Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who actively wants to fly under the radar of her peers. Her school is famous for having “The List” – a ranking devised by the school body to determine which girl has the “best rack”, or is the “most bangable”, or even “most obedient”. It’s sexist and wrong on so many levels, but no one at the high school seems interested in doing anything about it. Vivian is pushed into rebelling against her school’s culture when she discovers her mother’s (Poehler) collection of Riot Grrl era memorabilia. She anonymously publishes a zine called Moxie, which becomes a catalyst for the school’s change even as the principal fights against her.

There are a lot of plot threads introduced early in Moxie: “The List”, Vivian’s rocky relationship with her best friend, Claudia (Lauren Tsai), Vivan’s father’s awkward absence, her mother’s dating life, her first relationship just to name a few. It’s too much to wade through effectively, and the film loses itself under its own weight halfway through the second act. Moxie feels like it was meant to be about an hour long, but I’m not sure that would’ve made it much better. It attempts to redeem itself with an important reveal less than ten minutes before the end of the film, which leaves the ending feeling more rushed than fulfilling.

Still, the cast does an amazing job with the script. Robinson does a great job as Vivian, and Poehler’s performance as Vivian’s mother/former Riot Grrl is small but memorable. Alycia Pascual-Peña plays Lucy, a new student at Vivian’s high school who first question’s Vivian’s attitude about the school bully. Pascual-Peña shines in this role and I wanted more of her on-screen. Vivian’s love interest Seth (Nico Hiraga), best friends, and Moxie girls Kiera (Sydney Park) and Amaya (Anjelika Washington) are also worth mentioning for their fun performances.

This is Poehler’s second time directing, after 2019’s Wine Country. Wine Country has similar issues – it means well but just doesn’t deliver on its promise. Moxie still has its moments though – the shots and transitions are interesting, and even though the final plot point of the film feels rushed, it’s executed in a way that feels meaningful and gave me goosebumps. If the script were stronger, I believe Poehler’s directing would be as well.

Moxie has positive representation that isn’t very common in YA/Teen movies – a trans actress playing a trans character (Josie Totah as CJ), a disabled actress playing a disabled character (Emily Hopper as Meg), and the majority of the supporting cast are people of color. It’s a good thing to be seeing diverse groups on our screens, especially for young women, but this film’s diversity is often underutilized. The movie makes a good-spirited attempt to be intersectional but just doesn’t make the cut. It doesn’t give the marginalized characters enough screentime or good enough dialogue. There isn’t any mention of nonbinary/gender nonconforming people either. It’s unfortunately very clear that this film was written by two cis-gendered white people. Moxie has a lot of potential to be the intersectional feminist film this generation needs but doesn’t quite get there.

Despite this, Moxie has a lot of heart. It still says something positive about marginalized people’s ability to stick together and take down the status quo. Anyone who’s been in high school in the last twenty years will immediately recognize the misogyny that goes on and relate to Vivian’s voiceless struggle. Most women/assigned female at birth/femme people I know have a story about being dress coded, or harassed in the hallways, or put on some kind of derogatory list in high school (and unfortunately, even earlier than that).

Overall, Moxie still has a cathartic property to it for anyone who’s already been through high school. It’s still worth watching for young adults of all backgrounds. It’s just a shame it isn’t more concentrated on its themes and goals and isn’t intersectional enough for the conversations we’re having in 2021.

Moxie is streaming now on Netflix.

 

  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, Moxie still has a cathartic property to it for anyone who’s already been through high school. It’s still worth watching for young adults of all backgrounds. It’s just a shame it isn’t more concentrated on its themes and goals and isn’t intersectional enough for the conversations we’re having in 2021.