MOXIE is moving, frustrating, and most of all fierce
Moxie is a film we need right now. It shows that from a young age you can fight for what you believe is right. In this case, the female students of the school fight for equal treatment amongst the men and faculty of the school. Moxie is moving, frustrating, and most of all fierce.
Amy Poehler helms Moxie with the point of view of someone who’s very passionate about the subject matter. Shot similarly to Love, Simon and even Mean Girls at points, the film focuses all its energy on the matter of toxic masculinity and loses focus on everything around it. Moxie is persuasive in its message and wins you over quickly with the way the girls of the school are being treated not only by the male students but also the faculty of both sexes. Unfortunately the film does struggle with its pacing; while there are some riveting scenes of our lead, Vivian, taking a stand against the patriarchy, there are also some over-stuffed scenes with Vivian dating a “nice” guy from school. All in all, the storytelling needed to be tighter, because as it is, characters are crunched into the runtime with many barely getting an essential second of screen time. Half way through we are “treated” to an unnecessary concert scene - sporting the very definition of padding the runtime.
As mentioned prior, the pacing is a tad off. Adapted by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer from the 2015 novel of the same name, the scenes that work, work wonderfully, pulling you into the drama of the actions taking place on screen. The pieces of the plot that don’t work are the ones that feel like filler to connect one crucial bullet point to the next. Beginning with a powerful message pushed through a self published magazine titled “Moxie,” the zine starts as a motivational note, then progresses to a revolutionary movement within the school limits. The examples of sexism within high school feels unfortunately very realistic, albeit occasionally a little more over the top for movie making sake than what would typically happen in reality. Moxie sits at 111 minutes and in its third act fights to come to a rightful end to the story it has thoughtfully crafted, pressing forward a mysterious sideplot of a sexual assault victim to come to a rushed finale. The message is still very clear and wonderfully put, but these finale moments could have been better explored and utilized for a more impactful punch.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Moxie is fueled by a talented group of young actors: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascuai-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sydney Park, and Anjelika Washington. The film provides a connection for many viewers as they should be able to see themselves in aspects of one of the many characters on screen. To spotlight just a few characters played by the actors listed above, Hadley Robinson’s Vivian is one of the more frustrating lead characters we’ve received in a film in some time; her evolution to becoming a vibrant leader is a staggered one and a scene within the third act between her, her mother (Amy Poehler), her mother’s love interest (Clark Gregg), and her own love interest, Nico Hiraga’s Seth, is a huge turning point where some people will strongly support her dissatisfaction with the world around her and others will absolutely hate her attitude. Lauren Tsai’s Claudia is similarly frustrating, but for an entirely separate issue. Feeling discarded from her friendship with Vivian, her character quickly graduates from someone to feel sorry for, to an irritating companion character that's there to always be the odd woman out in the film. On the male side of things, Patrick Schwarzennegger plays an ideal scumbag teen consumed in his own toxic masculinity, and while you’re led to hate the guy, his actions are a little much for the scenarios in play. Adult characters are limited with Ike Barinholtz stealing the show as the main teacher on display, similar to the likes of Woody Harrelson’s turn as the hysterical teacher in Edge of Seventeen. Amy Poehler is the motivating hip mom, Marcia Gay Harden is the evading, one sided principal, and Clark Gregg is wasted entirely.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Set mainly within a high school in a small town, the film doesn’t explore any new territory in its set designs or costumes. The design of the magazine “Moxie” however is the saving grace of the film’s visuals, showing an amateur, captivating style to its layout; which is something that should have been further implemented later along in the runtime.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Moxie sets “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill as its theme, having our main character realize what she needs to do with creating the magazine while listening to the song. Later, a cover of the song is performed live, and the song comes back time and time again. The beat alone will get your heart pumping. Mac McCaughan composes a score that assists the film in its high intensity moments and helps convey the proper emotions, bringing a smile to my face in happier times and irritation behind my eyes in more frustrating ones.
Moxie has some cliches and some messy storytelling, but its message is pure. The concept of starting a movement for what you believe in is one many young people need to latch onto and understand to make this world one that’s fair to live in for all. Moxie is fresh at times, but at others comparable to numerous high school dramedies. Ultimately, it is a satisfying feature that tries to wake those that haven’t yet woken up.
MOXIE is Now Available to Stream on Netflix