At times ham-handed, at times wonderfully genuine, this coming if are story is a big old feminist anthem that is pretty good.
Directed by Amy Poehler, Moxie tells the story of high school junior Vivian, played by Hadley Robinson, who is struggling to find something she’s passionate about. After witnessing the blatant sexism on display in her school, she starts publishing a zine calling out the wrongdoers in.
The story is really a drama, but tonally it operates as a comedy. It deals with privilege, sexual violence, and unjust power structures, but it feels at all times like a goofy comedy. Ike Barinholtz hams it up as an inept teacher. Amy poehler wrings laughs as Vivian’s mom. And the dorky mascot is genuinely funny, but they feel out of place considering the subject matter.
When the movie becomes sincere I think it really shifts into gear. Vivian’s struggle with self doubt and her disappointment with failure is really affective and heart wrenching at times. She has a delightful romance with a doofy but sincere dude named Seth, played by Nico Hiraga. He likes skate boarding and that’s about it, but he’s supportive and earnest. And I love the tender moments between him and Vivian.
Some of the feminism and girl power moments feel forced. The movie shifts into sermon mode on a couple of occasions, and that really didn’t work for me. It’s not that I disagree with the sentiments expressed. I just wish they came about more organically and elegantly. The shift from naturalistic teen movie to political speech just feels false and pulled me out of the movie.
The cast deserves a lot of credit here. Lead by a great Hadley Robinson as Vivian these characters really come alive.
Patrick Schwarzenegger is chillingly effect as the Golden boy quarterback who is nasty and sinister toward anything he can’t have.
And my favorite was Lauren Thai as Claudia. She’s Vivian’s best friend since infancy and wants to support her feminist movement but fears the consequences. She has a lot of pressure from home to stay out of trouble. She gives a great performance, in an interesting part, offering a unique perspective.
The movie culminates in a really great moment that I loved. That was almost instantly cut down by an awkward and forced denouement. It felt like they didn’t want to add any additional scenes, so they just mashed all the subplots together to wrap things up neatly. I really disliked that ending. I felt genuine emotion follows by disappointment by the ham handed conclusion.
All that said, I enjoyed the movie. It’s a mixed bag, but you can do worse this weekend. Entertain by flawed. It’s half a cup of tea for me. B