Arts & Entertainment, Movies & TV, Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Moxie’

Trigger warning: this film contains themes of sexual assault and harassment. 

When a movie directed by Amy Poehler came up on my Netflix homepage, I was pumped. Netflix has been a bit scarce these days for me, so I was ready for Poehler’s new movie, “Moxie.” I was expecting a “Mean Girls” type of vibe, with some hints of “Baby Mama” — both of which feature Poehler. But despite my excitement … it flopped.

moxie film on a computer screen
Amy Poehler’s “Moxie.” While the film attempts to start a conversation about sexual abuse and harrassment, it falls into tropes of white saviorism. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The main character, 16-year-old Vivian, played by Hadley Robinson, is living through her cookie-cutter movie version of a teenage awakening. She starts as a shy and timid high schooler and then finds her voice. She then uses that new voice to start a club that defends other girls at her high school and calls out the mistreatment they face. She starts anonymously handing out flyers and organizing walk-outs to support girls in the school.

The movie begins with the predictable story of a student getting sent home because she was wearing a tank top. Then, the harassment slowly starts to increase when boys at the school release an unofficial list ranking girls’ looks.  

As Vivan gains momentum for her feminism club “Moxie,”  girls in the school become more and more confident to share their own stories of sexual assault and abuse. 

All of this would not have happened without a few key characters. New girl Lucy, played by Alycia Pascual-Peña, inspires Vivian to make her voice heard. But why isn’t it cool enough for Lucy to be the outspoken one? From her first day of school, Lucy was being targeted by the popular boys. She then attempts to report these things and stand up for herself but is quickly shut down by school officials. 

Lucy was the real star of “Moxie.” Poehler decided to keep to the basic and formulated plotline of white saviorism. Lucy steals the show right from the first scene. She is outspoken and unapologetic — the perfect role model for any high school girl. She recognizes when she is treated unfairly and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or the people around her. But instead of recognizing the strength of a minority character, Poehler gave all of the credit to the white character.

It wouldn’t be a high school coming-of-age movie if there wasn’t a love interest. From the first few scenes, Vivian has googly eyes for a skater boy Seth, played by Nico Hiraga. At first, Seth seems like the typical high school boy — dumb and shallow. But he surprised me through his support for the “Moxie” girls and by holding Vivian to high standards by calling her out on her mistakes.

“Moxie” needs a rewrite. I petition for Lucy to become the new main character. She should start the “Moxie” club and get all the credit that she deserves. Once Lucy gets the recognition she deserves, I’ll stand behind Poehler and become a member of “Moxie” myself.

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