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The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

A Walk In The Woods

September 3, 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (** ½) R

 Much like this summer’s earlier indie film darling, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I found myself more than a bit underwhelmed at the latest film to be labeled as such, The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The film has a nice visual style going for it. In particular, the animation that rears its head on and off throughout the film is quite enchanting to behold. Set in 1976, the film also has lots of nice period detail that’s likely to put a gentle smile on anyone’s face that happened to live during the time and remembers it as vividly as I do. There are great period songs on the soundtrack, most of them not the usual variety that one tends to find in films set during the seventies, and this helps matters considerably.

Still, for all the good will that the film engenders with its attention to the technical details, it can’t be overlooked that the picture lacks a certain narrative thrust that most coming of age films like this seem to contain. It plays more like a character study and under normal circumstances that might not be a problem. The trouble here is that the characters on display are extremely selfish and thrive on instant gratification, no matter what the consequences. 

At times I even found the characters downright annoying. It eventually becomes so difficult to find anyone to really root for that the film goes off the rails. At least it did for me.

Kristen Wiig, Bel Powley & Alexander Skarsgard in Diary

It should be duly noted that the film’s subject matter is likely to turn off mainstream audiences left and right. Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the film spins the tale of Minnie (Bel Powley), whom we are introduced to in the film’s early scenes as she conveys her thoughts into a tape recorder. She relates that she’s just had sex for the first time and feels exhilarated. Now this wouldn’t be that big of a deal under normal circumstances but since Minnie is 15 ½ and her sexual partner just happens to be her mother’s 35 year-old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), the situation is more than a little bit dicey. The film doesn’t shy away from this either and the sex scenes are filmed in the most potent way imaginable.

Minnie’s mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), is a free spirit who clearly has influenced her daughter in some very distinct ways although it’s pretty obvious that even this is a bit more than Charlotte bargained for. Minnie is also aided in her sexual misadventures by her promiscuous girlfriend, Kimmie (Madeleine Waters), whom she draws closer to as the film unspools.

The film is admirable in the way that it portrays female sexuality onscreen, something to which movie audiences are rarely privy. Minnie’s budding obsession with becoming a cartoonist in the Robert Crumb mode is also refreshing. As a character study the film succeeds partially but on other levels The Diary of a Teenage Girl is sorely lacking.
Diary is playing in Charlotte.

A Walk In The Woods • R

By Jake Coyle

AP Film Writer

The lure of the wild has recently attracted an interesting batch of solitude seekers: Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Mia Wasikowska (Tracks) and Robert Redford, twice.

Two years after All Is Lost, Redford has swapped the sea for the woods, and wordless isolation for Nick Nolte. It’s not a bad trade.

A Walk in the Woods is a broad and congenial comedy about two aged old friends trying to hike all 2,000-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. It’s light on its feet, even though its geriatric woodsmen are plodding and grunting.

The story, taken from Bill Bryson’s 1998 book, might seem like the kind of hokey comedy trotted out every now and then for older moviegoers. It is that, to be sure. But Redford and Nolte are a class, or two, above the standard stars of such fare. While A Walk in the Woods is tame stuff, indeed, a simple, comic stroll with pleasant company is a decent way to end a movie summer where the usual pace is a Tom Cruise sprint.

Redford has been trying to adapt Bryson’s book for 10 years, and he’s now older than the author was when he made his trip, along with his pal Stephen Katz (Nolte). It makes their endeavor, particularly on the part of the wheezing Nolte, a little incredulous.

Nolte’s Katz, a former alcoholic and proud philanderer, was never an ideal hiking companion; he’s the only one Bryson could get to go with him.

Robert Redford & Nick Nolte in A Walk In The Woods

But Nolte, 74 and so croaky he can be hard to understand, is now more convincing as a grizzly bear than a camper.

This, thankfully, is not a movie where the actors are weighing down their backpacks for the sake of realism.

The germ for the trip begins when Bryson returns to his New Hampshire home after a humbling book tour where he’s met with questions of retirement—likely the same kind Redford has become accustom to fielding but happily (for our sake) ignoring. Authors, Bryson responds, don’t retire. They either drink themselves away or blow their brains out.

But Bryson is instead drawn by a mysterious longing to hike the Appalachian Trail. His concerned wife (Emma Thompson—now there’s a couple) insists he find a companion. When everyone he can think of turns him down, Katz, with whom Bryson had lost touch, calls him up to say he’s game.

After the two set out in Georgia, their adventures unfold in episodic encounters and pratfalls. Along the way, they meet Kristen Schaal (as an annoying fellow hiker), an attractive innkeeper (Mary Steenburgen) and, inevitably, a bear.

But whereas Wild sought redemption across the country on the Pacific Crest Trail, profundity isn’t the pursuit of Bryson, Katz and A Walk in the Woods. Director Ken Kwapis (Big Miracle), working from the script by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman, steers it on well-trod but pleasant buddy-comedy paths that offers few surprises other than the undiminished appeal of its ambling stars.

Two and a half stars out of four.

A Walk In The Woods is playing in Hickory and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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