This optimistic, well-meaning coming-of-age film will leave feminist viewers cheering. Fans of co-star/director Amy Poehler are also likely to flock to Moxie. Poehler and her scriptwriters clearly tried hard to reach a diverse audience, learning from the mistakes of the 1990s Riot Grrrl movement that provided some inspiration for the film. Characters specifically talk about being more intersectional. It's a worthy goal, but there are moments when the film risks devolving into a grab bag of grievances. Still, just when you think Poehler may have cast her net too wide, she flicks it back with a self-aware wink, like Vivian's insistence that her mom give up milk, Lisa's prominently-placed NPR tote, or Claudia's polite concern that a Hawaiian-themed party doesn't feel "culturally sensitive."
Poehler also knows to step out of the way and let the teen actors carry the film, which they do with plausibility and confidence, particularly leads Robinson, Pascual-Peña, Tsai, and Nico Hiraga as Vivian's love interest. Schwarzenegger is appropriately smarmy as the "mediocre White dude" bully with a "chokehold on success." And it was a smart idea at the script level to start the film with Vivian mulling over her college application essay, that rite of passage for college-bound high-schoolers who are expected to both summarize their lives and show themselves to be wholly unique. The problem that introverted Vivian faces is writing about a "cause" she feels passionate about when she has thus far just gone with the flow, even when the flow may have felt wrong. Moxie is, at heart, a coming-of-age tale, and maybe also a generational one, since transitions are generally marked by eye-opening experiences and change. The film visualizes this in young women finding their voices, literally and figuratively. Despite Moxie's imperfections, those voices will speak to many.