Moxie (2021) Movie Review | Screen Rant
Based on the 2015 book of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu, which was in turn inspired by the 1990s Riot Grrrl feminist movement, Moxie sees a teenager in modern-day America use an anonymously published zine to try to disrupt the patriarchal standards at her high school. Moxie also serves as Amy Poehler’s latest directorial effort, after helming the 2019 Netflix movie Wine Country. She’s working from a script by Tamara Chestna (After) and Dylan Meyer (XOXO). Moxie has some heart and teeth as its Riot Grrrl-inspired teens smash the patriarchy, but it’s more love letter to Gen X than a call to arms for Gen Z.
In Moxie, introverted teenager Vivian (Hadley Robinson) grows tired of the toxic environment at her high school and after a sexist list rating all the girls gets posted, she draws inspiration from her mother Lisa’s (Poehler) history as part of the Riot Grrrl movement to lead her own kind of revolution. Vivian starts an anonymous feminist zine called Moxie, which then inspires other girls at the school like newcomer Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) and soccer team captain Kiera (Sydney Park) – and even some of the boys, like Seth (Nico Hiraga). But as the zine receives pushback from football team captain Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden), Vivian will need to decide exactly how far she’s willing to go to make her high school a safer place for herself and all the other girls.
Like many movies about teenagers written and directed by older generations who didn’t grow up with social media, Moxie has some glaring blindspots when it comes to the role the internet – particularly the way in which social media and sites like Wikipedia make information about feminism and the experiences of women readily available for young girls – plays in its characters’ coming-of-age feminist awakenings. Certainly, the movie attempts to correct this by making social media a part of the Moxie movement, but it still leaves the central premise feeling more relatable to Millennials and Gen X than the Gen Z teens the film depicts. That’s not to say Moxie won’t have any appeal to the teens it’s aimed at, because it will, but largely because the high school dynamics it depicts are unfortunately still relevant. And for those who haven’t heard of the Riot Grrrl movement, Moxie serves as a unique entry point to the modern conversation about feminism.
To its credit, Moxie also attempts to expand the scope of who exactly is participating in that conversation. Though Vivian and her mother are both white women, the Moxie inner circle is led by Black teens Lucy, Kiera and Amaya (Stargirl’s Anjelika Washington), and the film attempts to give voice to trans girls by featuring Josie Totah’s CJ and wheelchair-using teens by including Emily Hopper’s Meg. There’s also Vivian’s best friend, Claudia (Lauren Tsai), who struggles under the pressure of her immigrant mother’s expectations to join Moxie in fighting the patriarchy. All this to say Moxie tries to make sure its feminism is more intersectional, but doesn’t give these supporting characters enough to work with, leading them to feel one-note. Even Hiraga’s Nico, who presents an opportunity to address how men of color can be affected by the white male patriarchy, is left relegated to a trite male feminist ally role. This means these supporting characters spend much of the movie propelling Vivian’s story and occasionally calling her out for her whiteness (though not nearly enough). The cast is well-rounded and the actors are all well suited to their roles, but Moxie’s attempts at giving a voice to the experiences of many young women suffers as it centers Vivian’s feminist awakening above all else.
Ultimately, Moxie’s heart is in the right place, and there are sure to be many girls and women alike who relate to Vivian’s coming-of-age tale as she not only opens her eyes to the injustices of the patriarchy, but joins the fight against it. Its message is neither revolutionary nor entirely original, as many movies and shows have attempted to tackle the sexism and rape culture embedded in high school, but the Riot Grrrl elements and punk soundtrack do offer a fresh spin on this kind of story. While Moxie may not inspire its own feminist movement, and its ideas and themes could’ve been served better by being more thoroughly explored, it offers a compelling tale for teen girls who struggle with sexism in their own schools.
As such, Moxie is worth a watch for anyone interested in its premise, though it’ll perhaps be more rewarding for Gen X and Millennial women who were themselves radicalized by going to punk shows in VFW halls. It also serves as a sweet mother-daughter movie, due in large part to Poehler pulling double duty as director and co-star, making Moxie a fun watch for families – and may serve as a good jumping off point for discussion. But aside from its clear message, Moxie is simply an enjoyable teen movie, and is undoubtedly worth checking out for those looking to watch something new on Netflix. Though the filmmakers would no doubt love it if the film inspired a few Moxie girls to fight back, it seems more likely destined to entertain some folks already invested in feminism.
Next: Moxie Movie Trailer
Moxie starts streaming Wednesday, March 3 on Netflix. It is 111 minutes long and rated PG-13 for thematic elements, strong language and sexual material, and some teen drinking.
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