Review: Moxie (2021)

Leonie Bellini examines whether Netflix's latest teen flick makes the feminist statement Netflix thinks it did

Leonie Bellini
13th March 2021
Image: IMBD
One thing Moxie captures perfectly is the sudden transformations of being a teenager. You listen to one good song and decide to wholly reinvent yourself overnight; every book has a fresh character to base your new, cooler personality off, every late-night stumble home feels formative and cinematic.

This is partly the case for Vivian (whose Eighth Grade-esque awkwardness is mastered by Hadley Robinson), unnoticed at her generic American high school until she becomes emboldened by her mother (director Amy Poehler)’s riot-grrrl past and new student Lucy (a perfect Alycia Pascual-Peña), to protest the deep-rooted misogyny and sexual harassment around them via the eponymous zine, Moxie.

Quantified as a Netflix teen movie, it’s not a bad introduction to feminist punk movements for an unfamiliar mainstream audience. It’s energetic and inspiring, with a great soundtrack punctuated by The Linda Lindas and Tierra Whack, fun zine-making montages, and a sweet romantic lead with Nico Hiraga finally getting the heartthrob recognition he deserves.

Image: IMDB

However if Moxie’s target audience is teenage girls, it’s bold to assume they’ll simply lap it up, and won’t see through the quite painful Netflix teen-style dialogue, that churns out quirky comments about being an INTJ, to the deeper issues that never properly get addressed. The film fails to do its diverse characters justice, leaving split-second surface-level remarks about racism, transphobia and ableism instead of properly confronting the white, middle-class centredness of the feminism Vivian is inspired by. Who decided that representations of LGBTQ+ characters would be sufficed by a very random, two-second kiss?? Why was Vivian even the main character, supported/shadowed by an excellent cast of girls of colour with more nuanced stories to bring to light? The script attempts to talk about intersectionality and the inequality of the original riot-grrrl movement but ends up essentially perpetrating it, with the diverse experiences of the group and the multi-layered discrimination faced by queer black women such as Lucy, for example, barely explored.

The film fails to do its diverse characters justice, leaving split-second surface-level remarks about racism, transphobia and ableism instead of properly confronting the white, middle-class centredness of the feminism Vivian is inspired by.

This isn’t to deny the baby-step progress of seeing a starkly feminism-centred teen film produced by Netflix’s giant platform. The feelings of powerlessness, anger, and frustration that catalyse into protest and change-making are beautifully evoked, and the importance of supporting your local feminist movement (some excellent zines in the North-East include Take Care, Lvndr Sapphic, and Spilt Milk) is powerfully proclaimed. Moxie feels exciting overall and much-needed, but also like a mis-step in a bright lineage of feminist film.

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