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Movie Review: 'Moxie' Is Refreshingly Wide-Eyed

Teenagers are magnificent. Old enough to recognize and be angered by injustice, but not yet bloodied enough by life to be weary. Discovering they have power, not yet sure how to direct it, but also not constrained by what society has arbitrarily decided people can and can’t do.

Vivian is at this inflection point. She’s the hero of the new movie Moxie, directed by the wonderful Amy Poehler, and she’s a student at a high school that’s far too comfortable with standard retrograde notions about gender roles and permissiveness of awful behavior. Boys will be boys, after all. Vivian is realizing this, and learning just how unfair the world can be to women and girls, but what can she do? Fortunately, her mother was a bit of a social firebrand back in the ‘90s, and she inspires Vivian to throw some Bikini Kill on the record player and run down to the local print shop to start up her own ‘zine, which Vivian covertly distributes at school, sparking a revolution among the students who’ve had it with the sexist nonsense.

One of the more interesting aspects of Moxie is how much it actually feels like it was written by a teenager. It wasn’t, by the way, I checked. I don’t mean this negatively, but I also don’t mean that it really “gets” teenagers as deeply nuanced people, the way the recent films Eighth Grade or The Edge of Seventeen do. I mean it in a broader way, like it reflects the larger teenage experience of being at the beginning of this struggle. It’s got the idealism and utter sincerity of Vivian herself, and some of the dialogue is so extremely on the nose it reminds me of the type of terribly important statement laid out by someone who doesn’t realize we’ve heard it plenty of times before.

To be fair, though, it is important! And while it sometimes makes for a bit of clunky filmmaking, that level of earnestness is kind of inspiring. And, if anything, we can hope Moxie inspires other kids to get up to a little good trouble of their own.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.