Amy Poehler is an exceptionally accomplished individual whose career in comedy has spanned multiple decades and interlaced with more than one outrageously successful television show. From SNL to Parks & Recreation (and a number of notable films in between), she has proven her comedic chops through and through. Undoubtedly, Poehler’s prolific path to becoming the star she is today has provided considerable inspiration to many young girls who look to her for affirmation that a female voice can indeed be heard in the cacophony of predominantly male comedians.
Rather than rest on her laurels, though, Poehler has turned her attention to an entirely new creative venture. While she does appear in a supporting role in the new Netflix original, Moxie, the brunt of her efforts lie behind the camera. In the director’s chair, specifically. And it’s clear that she wanted to make a film that spoke directly to the young women that she has been consistently inspiring and encouraging throughout her whole career. This time, however, it’s a little more on-the-nose.
Moxie follows a high school junior named Vivian who, despite not receiving much attention from her peers, grows increasingly fed-up with the overtly sexist attitudes and behaviours that permeate the walls of her ostensibly average high school. She is particularly motivated to speak out by her mom, portrayed by Amy Poehler herself in one of the real comedic bright spots of the movie, whose rebellious past was characterized by vehement feminist protest in her own high school days. Vivian ultimately creates an impassioned zine that takes aim at the regressive manner in which her fellow female classmates are so often treated by their male counterparts. Her fiery feminist literature is swiftly circulated throughout the entire school, and Vivian’s movement gains ardent followers, as well as stark detractors.
Poehler‘s film, which is based on a novel by Jennifer Mathieu, attempts to tread a delicate boundary between cute teen dramedy and deadly serious political film, and that fragile dance is not always especially graceful. The movie’s zealous politics drench the rest of the proceedings and prevent the more conventional elements native to the coming-of-age high school flick from really making an impact. This is a politically-charged movie first and foremost, and that is apparent from the jump.
I’m sure Moxie is going to hit its target audience in just the right way. This is, after all, a film made primarily for young girls to rally around, much like the characters in the movie do themselves. However, it’s not particularly noteworthy as a piece of young adult fare, it’s far too graceless – and, quite frankly, occasionally obnoxious – as a work of political filmmaking, and ultimately it made for a viewing experience that was largely forgettable.
The best works of politically-centred storytelling are able to relay their messages with a certain measure of charm and aplomb and without alienating their audiences. Moxie doesn’t do that, and while its intentions are unquestionably pure and its cause is most definitely worthy, it does not successfully craft a compelling narrative framework through which its central message could be communicated effectively.
Comedy, Drama | USA 2021 | 12A | 3rd May 2021 | Netflix Original | Dir.Amy Poehler | Hadley Robinson, Amy Poehler, Lauren Tsai, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Nico Hiraga, Sydney Park, Ike Barinholtz, Marcia Gay Harden.