By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Sexual themes, language in feel-good feminist teen tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
People should be treated respectfully and fairly regardless of gender or skin color. There's power in numbers, and cultures can evolve when enough people join their voices to highlight injustice and call for change. Girls can do anything boys can do, sometimes better, including sports. Boys can be as sensitive and committed to gender equality as girls. Leaders come in different forms; not all are outspoken or naturally extroverted.
Positive Role Models
Vivian is inspired to take a stand against sexism at her school. She demonstrates courage in doing so, even though she remains anonymous at first. As the school's females gather together to raise their voices and stand up to school traditions/culture, they show the value of teamwork. School teachers and administrators look the other way despite troubling behavior and first-hand complaints of mistreatment. Vivian partakes in some risky behavior by sneaking into a business with her boyfriend, drinking too much, stealing a trophy, and defacing school property. The rebelliousness also prompts some confrontations at home. Claudia shows courage in taking the fall for Vivian despite the higher-stakes risks for her. Black girls are vocal about the offensive precedent of being judged historically by "their asses and their hair," and they ask that people respect their bodies. A transgender girl is upset when adults refuse to call by her new name. Fathers are largely absent, but Vivian's mom is supportive and models strong communication.
Violence & Scariness
Vivian has a dream in which she's being chased through a woodsy area and nobody can hear her screaming. Teen boys fall off bikes and trampolines and pass out after drinking at a party. Boys tease girls and touch them in ways that make them uncomfortable, including slaps on the butt or pulling them down on their laps. A teen girl tells the story of how she was raped.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual language used to describe teenage girls includes "bangable," "ass," "hot selfie," "rack," "MILF," and "the C word." Couples make out at a high school party. A girl describes a boy as "hot." Two characters make out in a car and talk about "doing it" (both for the first time). He's shirtless, and she's wearing an undershirt; he says he wants to wait until another time so they can go slow and make it special. When her mom sees Vivian kissing her date, Vivian sarcastically jokes that she's "already pregnant." A girl is sent home for wearing a tank top because she is big busted. A boy jokes at a Hawaiian-themed party about everyone getting "lei'd."
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"F--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "s--tload," "badass," "a--holes," "kickass," "bitch," "ball-busters," "d--k," "dyke," "MILF," "the C word," "Jesus Christ," "God," "hell," "stupid," "idiot."
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Products & Purchases
Big Five Sporting Goods, Jansport, VFW, UC Berkeley, Coca-Cola, New Balance, American Girls Dolls, NPR tote bag, North Face, Instagram, YouTube, Umpqua Ice Cream, brands seen in grocery store aisles. Many bands and songs featured on soundtrack, but Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill plays an especially prominent role.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at a house party while a classmate's parents are out of town. Vivian brings the host a bottle of wine. A group plays beer pong. The drinking leads to some risky behavior. In another scene, Vivian opens a bottle of champagne for a celebration that turns sour, and she ends up drinking alone from the bottle, getting drunk, and throwing up.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Moxie, which is based on Jennifer Mathieu's YA novel, is an upbeat coming-of-age dramedy directed by Amy Poehler (who also-co stars). It has strong feminist messages, as well as some mature content. Teens drink during a raucous house party scene, and there's another sequence in which main character Vivian (Hadley Robinson) has too much champagne and throws up in front of her mom. Nobody faces serious consequences for the partying, and the film positions most of the teen characters as responsible and well-intentioned even as they experiment with drinking and sex and do iffy things like sneak into a business after dark, steal a trophy from the school principal, and deface school property. Boys tease girls and touch them without consent, including slaps on the butt and pulling them down on their laps, and the boys use sexual language to describe their female classmates: "most bangable," "best ass," "hottest selfie," "best rack," "MILF," and "the C word." Other language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--holes," "bitch," "d--k," "dyke," "Jesus Christ," and more. Characters kiss, and there's one scene in which two characters make out in a car and talk about having sex at a later time. Teen girls show courage and teamwork in standing up to their school's long-held but sexist traditions, which are actively ignored by most teachers and administrators. The girls also call out racism and other prejudices in the course of their activism, and one girl finally feels supported enough to tell the story of how she was raped. The movie's main message is that all people should be treated respectfully and equally regardless of gender or skin color and that sexist behavior and gender stereotypes have no place in contemporary society.
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What's the Story?
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is a shy high school junior who doesn't realize how messed up the social hierarchy is at her school until new girl Lucy (Alicia Pascual-Peña) moves to town and points it out in MOXIE. Once her eyes are opened, Vivian decides she needs to take action. Inspired by the relics of her mom Lisa's (Amy Poehler) activist past, Vivian puts together an anonymous zine called Moxie that rages against the rampant sexism displayed by many of her male classmates -- especially entitled football team captain Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger) -- and certain school traditions that are tacitly supported by the school principal (Marcia Gay Harden) and teachers like Mr. Davies (Ike Barinholtz). When Moxie takes hold and becomes an outright movement at the school, it brings change -- but also push-back. Vivian's lifelong best friend, Claudia (Lauren Tsai), is less comfortable with the stringent activism, and the introverted Vivian finds she'll have to choose between remaining anonymous or taking public responsibility for what she's started.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the behaviors that the characters in Moxie speak out against. Teens: Have you seen or experienced similar behaviors at your own school? If so, how did you deal with them? How did the teachers and administrators in the movie handle them? Do you agree with what they did/didn't do?
Do you think the film has a single message? If so, what is it?
How does Vivian show courage, and how do the girls show teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?
Claudia says Vivian has more freedom to make bad decisions because she's White. Do you understand her perspective? Do you agree?
How does Seth compare to most of the other boys at Vivian's school? To other teen boys you've seen in movies/read about in books? How does his character subvert gender stereotypes?
- On DVD or streaming: March 3, 2021
- Cast: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alicia Pascual-Peña, Nico Hiraga
- Director: Amy Poehler
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, strong language and sexual material, and some teen drinking
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 19, 2023
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