It goes without saying that characters and their wants drive a movie and that’s true for Moxie, a film that lets its chracters express their wants in different ways. A quadriplegic female member of a school band in Rockport High, Oregon, sarcastically tells a fellow member to “Put in the back, how original”. Her male classmates are more direct, because of the patriarchy. And some boys publish online a list where they select a group of girls and give them qualities like “Most Obedient” and “C-Word”. The girl who got “Most Obedient” is our protagonist Vivian (Hadley Robinson), who would normally ignore this stuff right until this year.
Vivian would have kept her head down about the list because of her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai). As the best friend character, she’s the one making cracks at other charcaters. But interesting, she treats the list as gossip fodder. She is symbolic, and probably a heavy handed one, of the kind of girl who lets the patriarchy mow her down. But this year, there are two catalists that make Vivian stop ignoring the bullies. Those catalysts will drive their friendship apart, since it will move Vivian into a different friend circle. And one of the arcs here is whether or not they end up on the same side.
Anyway, the first catalyst is the girl who got the “C-Word” award, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena). She tells Vivian that they shouldn’t ignoring bully, list-making jocks like Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Jason (Joshua Walker). Those bullies should stop, um, bullying. The second is Vivian’s mother Lisa (Amy Poehler). As a Gen-Xer, Lisa has her own stash of Riot Grrl music and zines. This gives Vivian an idea to make her own zine, the titular Moxie, to combat the jock’s misogynistic list. The music part of this film is interesting, making it a jukebox musical with Riot Grrl songs.
Vivian publishes Moxie anonymously, but she watches as it evolves from her little zine to a movement where each member gets to have a goal. One has CJ (Josie Totah) audition for a musical, and a bigger goal is for Keira (Sydney Park) to win a sport scholarship that a jock like Mitchell would normally get. The latter plot point is probably the film’s most problematic. That’s because, and I hope I’m not spoiling anything, it lets it unfold by showing that leftists, or the high school version of them, aren’t the best strategists. And it’s also a metaphor for a real life competition which feels distracting.
But even the most cynical viewers can still admit that the film captures a certain spirit. It shows what it’s like to be a girl trying to change the world and meeting hurdles along the way. It captures that in scenes like the one where Vivian flips out on Lisa. Her other targets are boyfriend Seth (Nico Haraga) and Lisa’s new boyfriend John (Clark Gregg), all in one disastrous dinner. She specifically targets John for having an American flag on his car. This shows just how much oppressed groups have to deal with. And these setbacks are enough to make viewers want to see whether or not girl power wins.
Watch Moxie, a movie about girl power, on Netflix.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
- Release Date: 3/3/2021
- Directed by: Amy Poehler
- Starring: Alycia Pascual-Pena, Amy Poehler, Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sydney Park
- Produced by: Kim Lessing
- Written by: Dylan Meyer, Jennifer Mathieu, Tamara Chestna
- Studio: Paper Kite Productions