Moxie: It's What Needs Saying
Sexual harassment and its passive tolerance in high school is bought to the screen via this adaptation of Jennifer Mathieu's novel of the same name. Realised for the screen by Amy Poehler in her sophomore directorial effort.
Dir: Amy Poehler
Prod: Kim Lessing, Morgan Sackett , Amy Poehler
Screenplay: Tamara Chastna, Dylan Meyer
Based on: MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu
Starring: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Amy Poehler, Marcia Gay Harden
Released by: Netflix
Running time: 111 Minutes
Released: March 2021
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is a meek girl at the start of term who, inspired by the unrelenting stance taken by new girl Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), starts to resent the established tolerance of misogyny and the patriarchal pecking order so long entrenched in her school's psyche.
After the "Ratings list" is published again (a tolerated annual list of mostly female students awarded with sexually demeaning rankings), with even more abusive aggression than before, she decides to take a stand.
Her anonymous efforts in the form of feminist fanzine "Moxie" strikes a chord with the oppressed and marginalised female led populace of the school. Including exasperated befuddlement with the irritatingly evasive principal, Mrs Shelley (Marcia Gay Harden).
As Moxie takes off and the wave of female unity permeates all aspects of student life, both in and out of the school, friendships are tested and relationships blossom. Vivian falling for the charming Seth (Nico Hiraga), and her involvement with Lucy and the other active members of Moxie, starts to erode her lifelong friendship with best friend Claudia. Eventually actions lead to loyalties being called and sacrifices having to be made. The fallout reaches to home for all involved. Vivian is disillusioned by her previously active-feminist mother, confused at her motives and adaptability. Also, under the guise of her new-found leanings, she begins to lash out at well-meaning figures in her life.
Ultimately Moxie must prove itself a worthy institution that is there to give a voice to the silenced. It is in danger of becoming just another agenda that will exploit and push for privileged status. It will certainly have to become one or the other. Which will it be?
So is this just fanciful fluff or does it have something to say?
Well it is engaging in its opening portrayal of the sort of creepy "sorry I didn't mean to" physical touching, and that vile online terrorism we see in the perfect example of the rankings list with such hateful entries as "Best rack" and "Most bangable" which are seen as the prizes! other entries are far more hateful. The new entry for this year, which sparks things off is "Biggest Cunt" which is given to a black female who stands up for herself. A student physically intimidates her and then spits in her drink. The complaint she raises is met with a suggestion to join the marching band to help her "Blow out all that emotion." A student jumping into a girl's seat as she is about to, causing her to sit on his lap and then clutching her in welcome, is about as gross and sadly spot-on an example of physical invasion as you will ever see. This movie has it done with craft and subtlety.
However, a problem I have is it just feel about ten years too late. Remember The Internship? A fabulous film but an anachronism. Now I am not saying this stuff doesn't go on, it does, but so much of this is showing things being seen as acceptable that are just not anymore. the rankings list for example. The whole school is seen as allowing it and shrugging it off and I find that impossible. Whilst there are utter scumbags that would do things like that a-la Social Network, they are the minority. After all, look at the outcry of the actions in said movie. He was ostracised and I do not believe in 2021 a thing so malign would need addressing to be seen as wrong. It tries to say that opportunities are not there for female athletes to be noticed and I think that is quite insulting to the massive advancements made in the last decade or so in this field. Not to say it is yet balanced, but it is not the jocks only lads-fest it is made out to be here.
The over simplified case could be also tagged with it being a one-sided-coin. There are manipulative, spiteful, disgusting people in every institution, high school especially. Here we are told the malign input is exclusively male over a whole school. Maybe to have a couple of female antagonists would have given it more integrity.
The storytelling is a little weak, not to mention derivative. Especially of a certain other high school movie with Amy P in it that focused on the way girls are perceived and treated. The second we meet Claudia, the best friend, we know she will be what she becomes. They skirt around and clumsily hint at a trans-based issue....I think. then they figure its a bit complicated and appear to stop which really does not pay the required homage to that particular issue (its status was non-existent when I was at school so I cannot say much.)
Plus the characterisation and the motives can be, a little floppy. These two angry feminist girls are starting to be (God I hate this word) "empowered" and then the moment they see the cute skater-boy doing the same, they swoon like princesses at a ball. Then we have the race issue. Girls complaining about being black and always having their ass being rated or their hair being touched (a VERY valid point) but then the antagonist has a black friend and every time he is on the screen he is walking crooked, saying something that ends high-pitched with a "wuuuutt?" at the end and a high-five! It sort of mutes the racial stereotype rage a little.
The main character seems to arrive at the angry aggression thing too quickly and without much cause. It is everyone around her that is sacrificing and losing. She has no reason to be so vile out of nowhere to people that are completely undeserving.
In one of the many scenes and themes robbed from Mean Girls, the end speech, I lose a lot of empathy for one character who brags about breaking the school mascots wrist. He was a nice guy who did nothing wrong and she boasts about it. Yes, I know some will say "Mansplaining" etc etc but I was totally on the side of all involved until she said that.
Cultural capitulating is next: As it is an angry female character in high school, the band Bikini Kill is involved and by their inclusion we are reminded of one thing: How they suck. Really, they are so terrible and there is no way they are the best female rock band that could be used. Why not one that knows how to mix a record or has a drummer that can count in? We are trying to strengthen female culture. It would be the same as doing a documentary on Britpop and making it an hour long focus on Gene and The Longpigs. Research better please. Also, as always, we have the ridiculous error of the unemployed high school kid with a single mother who somehow has tonnes of disposable income for printing, clothing, booze, paint, and anything else.
Still the problem is that this film addresses such a vital aspect of life that we have to love it. This crap goes on non-stop. the problem is we see people signing up to seminars and we see people agreeing to Facebook comments and retweeting Me Too slogans. What I want those people to do is when you see a woman being harassed on a nightbus, get off and call the police. When you see your classmate/colleague posting that xxxx is a frigid lesbian because she knocked him back, report it to the school/HR, and if required, the police. Also, if it is you, you may think jump-scaring the girl from your English class is harmless fun, or when you walk by her, putting her hood up over her head. You may be a good guy and think its just hijinks. Do you know why? It is because you are comfortable and have the confidence to do and be that way. Here's a revelation; WHAT IF SHE DOESN'T? I bet you would be horrified to know you are causing someone to be afraid to come to school, and to maybe cry herself to sleep each night. So maybe look at the face next time you do your "harmless fun" and if it is blank, unhappy, or scared: stop fucking doing it. You do not know what they might be going through. People do not always have the same life as you.
Also, it is not "being boring" and it is not "thinking she is better than all of us." If a girl doesn't want to be part of your act or whatever, remember SHE DOESN'T HAVE TO. Just leave her along. No one person on this planet, needs to explain why they don't want to be touched or engaged with.
So while it is not the best movie ever and its ideology is a bit skew-whiff we must take a bow to Amy and the gang because if we are making people think "Hey, maybe I should stop knocking that quiet girls pen off the desk every time I go by...actually shit, I think she was crying last time...holy god ...did I do that?" then lets churn mediocre screen filler out all day long.