The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Diary of a Teenage Girl Movie Poster Image
Bold but flawed film about sexual awakening is very mature.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Growing up is simultaneously confusing, overwhelming, and inelegant, but it's also a process that leads you to become stronger and more grounded in who you are and what you're about. The film champions the power of being true to yourself and following your passion (and ultimately promotes the idea that women don't need a man to be happy), though some of the passions the main character follows (sketching, cartooning) are certainly much healthier than others (casual sex, drug use, drinking).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Minnie is often confused, frequently impulsive, and not very self-aware, and she often feels alone and unloved. But she's also bold and open and is desperately trying to connect on constantly shifting ground. Tons of iffy choices are made, and the two central adults in the movie are the furthest thing from positive role models (one has an affair with a teenage girl, and the other shares her drinks and drugs with teens and overshares personal information). But ultimately family and friends care for each other when it counts.

Violence

Loud arguments; a mom slaps her daughter; talk of suicide and imagined images of drowning. Some scenes have a menacing vibe.

Sex

Frequent, graphic sex, with lots of nudity (particularly teen characters' breasts). A thirtysomething man has an affair with a 15-year-old girl (she loses her virginity to him); they're shown having sex in various positions. Their genitals aren't seen, but pretty much everything else is. The same 15-year-old girl is also shown having sex with others; she's naked, with breasts bared. She also looks at her naked body in a mirror in some lingering scenes. Teens are shown in positions that clearly show they're fellating men (for money). Also kissing, groping (on one occasion between three people at once), innuendo, and constant references to thinking about and having sex. References to masturbation and oral sex. Implication that sex will be traded for drugs. Many of Minnie's sketches come to "life," and lots of them are graphic (childbirth, breasts, penises, etc.).

Language

Frequent strong swearing, including liberal use of "f--k" (particularly in the sexual sense), "s--t," "d--k," "son-of-a-bitch," "pork," and "tits." Words are used by both adults and teens, sometimes to each other.

Consumerism

Some vintage products/labels shown to set the scene.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent drug use/drinking by both adults and teens, sometimes in each other's presence (a mom shares with her teenage daughter, a man buys a teen girl drinks in a bar, etc.). Teen and adult characters are shown smoking cigarettes (accurate for the era) and pot, drinking to excess, snorting cocaine, and dropping acid (one character has a happy trip, while another freaks out). Mention of heroin/track marks shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Diary of a Teenage Girl is '70s-set coming-of-age drama set in San Francisco. Although it's about a 15-year-old girl, it's probably best for the oldest teens and adults due to its extremely mature content. It's very frank about sex, with frequent nudity (especially a teen girl's breasts) and tons of talk about wanting/having/needing sex, as well as references to masturbation, oral sex (once for money), and more. The main character leaves no stone unturned in exploring her burgeoning sexuality (she experiments with many men and also a woman), and a relationship with a thirtysomething man figures heavily in her explorations. There's also tons of swearing (particularly "f--k"), drinking, and drug use (pot, cocaine) by both adults and teens -- in some cases, side by side. While the main character ultimately learns a lot about who she is and what she wants -- and that she doesn't need a man to be happy -- she makes a ton of iffy choices along the way, making her a complicated role model (at best) for younger teens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjazzyfizzle13 May 30, 2016

Mature movie but great for mature teenage girls

I'm not a parent and not exactly a kid, but as a 20 year old woman, this was a very inspirational and freeing movie. I was a mature teen and would apprecia... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bySS1234 September 25, 2015

Very sex heavy!

I saw this movie today with my mother which was a big mistake. Who wants to watch a movie about someone close to your age having sex with their mother? Not me a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTeenager890 February 13, 2016

Definitely a mature movie, but definitely made for teenagers.

Although I wouldn't suggest watching this as a family, you should allow your teen to watch this. Vice-versa, if you are a teenager, don't watch this w... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Phoebe Gloeckner's semi-autobiographical graphic novel, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL follows the travails of Minnie (Bel Powley), a 15-year-old girl living in San Francisco in 1976. Minnie is passionate about cartooning and sexuality, though not necessarily in that order. After she loses her virginity to Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), all Minnie seems to be able to think about is sleeping with him, but there are major complications: First, he's dating her mom, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). And second, he's old enough to be her dad. Thrilled, confused, and mercurial, Minnie proceeds to navigate teenagehood with a lust that knows no bounds -- and no boundaries to enclose her (or, sadly, to help her feel safe).

Is it any good?

There's no ignoring the daring that exists in a film that doesn't attempt to judge a 15-year-old for her actions -- or legislate what's right or wrong about a teenage girl exploring her body. That said, why provide this same generosity to her 35-year-old lover, one who's also involved with her mother? In its zeal to maintain a judgment-free zone, The Diary of a Teenage Girl comes across as being either somewhat naive or pandering, neither one of which is a great place to be. But the cast members, notably Powley (who's incredible) and Skarsgard, give themselves over to the experience, unafraid of the film's irreverent (and sometimes quite graphic) explorations of sex.

Still, for a movie about high emotions and deep desires, Diary feels like it's at a bit of a remove. We don't see Minnie struggle too much with her decisions and choices, and yet we're supposed to feel like some insight has been achieved, some epiphany found. It's encouraging when teenager characters are allowed to be vocal about everything they're feeling and exploring, but when those explorations lack a huge dose of sobriety and self-reflection, a story starts to feel hollow. Diary is an important movie in many ways, and possibly even groundbreaking. But perfect? Not quite.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Diary of a Teenage Girl handles sex and sexuality. Is Minnie empowered or overwhelmed by her experiences? What does she learn from them? Is her relationship with Monroe truly consensual? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • The movie is about a young woman who openly embraces her sexuality in a confusing time. That makes her relatable, but would you consider her a role model for teens? What about the adults in the film? Are any of them someone you'd look up to?

  • How does the film portray drinking and drug use? Are the extremes easy to look past because the film takes place in the past? How would you feel if it was a contemporary story? What part is most shocking/surprising, and why? Are there realistic consequences?

  • What holds Minnie back from going further down a dangerous path? Why do you think she decides to get herself out of the situation that Tabatha puts her in?

  • How accurate do you think the film is as a reflection of being a teenager in the 1970s? What was different about life then? How was it similar?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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