At one level in Netflix’s new Amy Poehler-directed film Moxie, a gaggle of teenage women collect in a non-public room throughout a celebration to vent concerning the douchey boys at their faculty. One among them shuffles a deck of enjoying playing cards, realization dawning on her face.
“You know what I just realized? The king is worth more than the queen,” she says, with the air of somebody discovering the best secrets and techniques of the universe. “Why? The queen is the best.”
That weirdly contrived wokeness bogs Moxie down, despite the fact that it’s an in any other case candy, empowering movie about one woman gaining the self-confidence to face up for herself and her friends. Poehler and the writers attempt to stability a variety of points, however fail to meaningfully combine them into the story. That typically makes Moxie really feel like a guidelines of synthetic social consciousness.
[Ed. note: This review contains slight spoilers for Moxie.]
Based mostly on a 2015 YA novel of the identical identify, Moxie follows shy high-school junior Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who grows more and more fed up with the sexist tradition at her faculty. Yearly, a gaggle of well-liked boys, led by soccer captain Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger, who pulls off the charming-douchebag function with virtually alarming finesse), roll out a rating of feminine college students, giving them degrading titles like “Most Bangable” and “Best Rack.” When new pupil Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) dares to talk up in opposition to Mitchell, she will get blasted on the checklist. Fueled by this assault, and a Bikini Kill tune her mother (Amy Poehler) performed for her at one level — Vivian pours all her rage right into a zine she dubs “Moxie,” and plasters it throughout her faculty.
The connection between Vivian randomly remembering the lyrics to “Rebel Girl” and discovering her mother’s previous stash of zines, then creating her personal zine, is skinny. (Particularly since she by no means really… talks to her mother about it.) However usually, it’s satisfying to see Vivian’s evolution from shy wallflower to chief emboldened by anonymity. As extra of the varsity — boys included — begins to catch on to the zine’s name to motion, they draw Sharpie hearts and stars on their palms to indicate solidarity. Quickly, Moxie grows from a one-woman nameless publication right into a core group of scholars rallying for change. It’s positively refreshing to see all kinds of women pulled into the combination — and never simply the outsiders, as well-liked pupil Kaitlynn (Sabrina Haskett) and soccer captain Kiera (Sydney Park) take part as properly.
Some particular person elements of Moxie, nonetheless, simply come off as awkward and misplaced. That queen-and-king line isn’t the one clunky dialogue. Lucy complains that her assigned English studying solely consists of books by wealthy white dudes — which could have extra affect if the primary episode of Netflix Unique Ginny & Georgia didn’t have a really comparable scene, airing just some weeks in the past. There are additionally bizarre framing units at first — a nightmare Vivian has of being unable to scream, in addition to her uncannily related school essay query — that instantly disappear, solely to be randomly referenced close to the tip of the film.
However the film’s best disservice is the way it has all of the items in place to essentially look at intersectionality, and as a substitute finally falls flat. On the finish of the day, it’s extra a narrative about Vivian than about Moxie. Vivian by no means meaningfully involves phrases with the truth that she inherently advantages from privileges that her pals don’t: she’s white, able-bodied, and cisgendered. She’s surrounded by a various solid, however these characters don’t have their very own company — they’re solely in place to spice up Moxie’s wokeness (and due to this fact Vivian’s). Even in locations the place different characters take the lead, the movie sticks to Vivian’s restricted viewpoint: Moxie pits Kiera in opposition to Mitchell for an athletic scholarship, however after the fallout, the main target isn’t on Kiera. It’s on Vivian’s disappointment and frustration, which she takes out on different characters, like her new boyfriend (Nico Hiraga) and her mom.
Her relationship together with her finest buddy Claudia (Lauren Tsai) brings this throughout most immediately. In contrast to the opposite women concerned in Moxie, Claudia comes from a first-generation Chinese language household — as a result of her mom has labored tirelessly for her schooling, Claudia feels immense stress to succeed, and may’t danger suspension the way in which Vivian can. Vivian fails to comprehend this, despite the fact that she and Claudia have been finest pals their complete lives, and she or he will get more and more pissed off with Claudia for not becoming a member of in on Moxie’s extra rebellious actions. Claudia does finally name Vivian out for her callous behaviour, however Vivian by no means presents greater than a mumbled apology. By the tip of the film, although, any tensions have been dropped.
To Moxie’s credit score, Vivian’s egocentric perspective does finally get addressed, however it particularly focuses on how impolite she’s being to her mom. This could possibly be a significant emotional thread, besides that for many of the movie, their relationship is sidelined, solely actually ramping up on the finish for the sake of emotional catharsis. It’s simpler to patch up a easy mother-daughter misunderstanding — particularly since Vivian was impressed by her mother’s insurgent days — than it’s for the heroine to think about her personal self-centeredness and make private amends to her pals.
Poehler and the filmmakers imbue Moxie with triumphant moments of the ladies uniting, although by making an attempt to be extra socially conscious, they find yourself not really doing a lot with their numerous solid. General, although, the movie is certainly a internet constructive: filled with gleeful moments of victory, candy and particular character relationships, and a singular character arc that’s principally satisfying to look at unfold. The problem isn’t that Moxie performs into dangerous tropes — for probably the most half, it doesn’t. It’s simply that Poehler and the crew have all of the items of one thing better, they usually don’t assemble them within the ways in which would take advantage of affect.
Moxie is now streaming on Netflix.