Hadley Robinson in Moxie.
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
A shy 16-year-old who is fed up with sexism and toxic masculinity at her school starts publishing an anonymous feminist zine that sparks a revolution at her school.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Becoming socially aware is a journey, not a destination, and Moxie does a great job of depicting it through the lens of one girl who finds her voice. However, the film could have done a lot more to show other girls’ personal strifes in the school.
Moxie tells the story of Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a 16-year-old girl who just seems to be flying under the radar at her school. She and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) are introverts who seem to be okay just interacting with each other and doing their schoolwork. But then a chain of events changes Vivian’s outlook. First, a new student, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), continually speaks up for what she believes in and challenges the most popular boy in school, Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger). A college admissions essay then asks her what a cause she believes in is and she can’t think of an answer. Lastly, there is her mother (Amy Poehler), who often talks about how she was an activist when she was Vivian’s age.
But the primary catalyst is the List. The List ranks the girls in the school where the boys categorise the girls based on superlatives such as ‘Most Bangable’ ‘Best Rack’ and other deeply offensive titles. It has become almost part of the school’s tradition, and everyone is just used to it, without considering how wrong it is. When Lucy calls out the sexism at their school and the List, Vivian decides to do something about it. Inspired by her mom’s fanzines, she decides to create her own zine (like a pamphlet), calling the school and students out and then distributing it anonymously throughout the school. It then results in a movement, with the girls standing up for themselves and demanding justice.
If you look at Moxie as simply just Vivian’s journey, then the film achieves its’ goal. We watch as Vivian goes from being a timid bystander to finding her voice and speaking up for what she believes in. But the film wants us to care about the voices around Vivian without really giving them proper backgrounds or really voices of their own. Everything seems to be from the perspective of Vivian and how it relates to her. And if being socially aware is a journey, there is still a lot that Vivian needs to learn, especially about being self-aware. There is a scene when she is called out for being privileged and having the power to just protest and walk out of school when others cannot, and there are no real repercussions for that; everything is just hunky-dory in the next scene. But the film does seem aware of Vivian’s faults and, for the most part, makes the audience aware that she still has a long way to go.
The only other character that is given a bit of context without Vivian is Claudia. We learn that Claudia’s family is first-generation Chinese immigrants, and the pressure on her to achieve is much higher than for Vivian. So it is not as easy for Claudia to challenge authority or willingly disobey school rules to make a point. We see Vivian becoming annoyed with Claudia and her apprehension of speaking out and joining the Moxie club that Vivian and her new friends start. But the film seems to tell us that there are many ways to protest, and that silence does not necessarily mean that someone does not care.
The other characters in the Moxie club are given credence and are very vocal, but they seem more like archetypes than fully-fleshed characters. They seem like they would all fit in well in the specific groupings that Janis Ian gives the lunch tables in Mean Girls’ cafeteria scene. Lucy is outspoken and is the one to help Vivian climb out of her shell, but yet we know nothing about Lucy. Besides a throwaway line about her parents, we don’t know where she comes from, what made her so outspoken, or her own experiences with sexism before coming to the school. She seems to fit into the ‘magical negro’ trope, where she serves mainly to help Vivian, a white character, find her voice or make herself better.
The interesting thing about the Moxie club is that it is not just a group of outsiders. There is the popular girl who was told off for wearing a tank top, the school star soccer players, the toxic masculinity of the school did not only affect the outsiders but all the girls. There is a scene when the List is released, and you see the reactions of different girls as they see their names on the List, and it is evident that it makes them uncomfortable to be objectified in that way – even the ones who were listed as desirable.
In the last part of the film, there is a rape allegation, and even though there are slight clues about it throughout the film, it still seems a bit out of the blue. I also don’t think that the film did enough to show how easily misogyny and spaces which protect toxic masculinity can lead to sexual and physical assault.
While the young actors did a good job, it is difficult to single any of them out. There were scenes where I forgot who the peripheral characters were that weren’t Vivian, Claudia and Lucy. But for this, I think the problem lies in the writing. There were many pieces of clunky dialogue that seemed more cliché than something a real teenager would say. Also, the script focused too much on inserting different plot points in and too little on establishing the characters.
However, I can say that the film did make me happy; I enjoyed it, it was extremely cute. And if you look at it on a surface level, it is the lovely story of a girl finding her voice and learning to stand up for what she believes in.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: