By Zoe Talbot
Especially in high school, there are an abundance of rules and regulations, such as dress codes that remain targeted at women. Administrators and students too often accept that “boys will be boys” and that the status quo must be maintained, resulting in dangerous values and priorities.
In Netflix’s “Moxie,” when Vivian (Hadley Robinson) realizes this and is inspired by a new student Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) to stand up for herself, she begins a feminist movement inspired by her mother’s (Amy Poehler) days as a protester and punk feminist.
Vivian is an introvert with a lot of reservations about being loud and outright, so she starts a zine inspired by things she found in a trunk of her mother’s belongings. Her zine gains traction after being anonymously placed in the bathrooms, and “Moxie” becomes a club in the high school.
This film attempts to accomplish a lot of things in only two hours; not only is it about a feminist movement, but it also works to explore the relationships between a single mother and daughter and even has a romantic plot between Vivian and skater-boy Seth (Nico Hiraga). Further, the movie touches on topics such as transphobia, sexual assault, feminism that is not intersectional, and other mainstream issues both in and out of the education system. I found myself feeling visible, watching the film say so many things that I have felt before as a bisexual Asian-American woman. However, I also found myself wondering if the film limits itself by trying to cover so many complicated and deep-seated issues in such a short amount of time.
I understand that Vivian is inspired by the likes of “Grrl Zine Fair,” and other punk-feminist riot-esque things, in addition to being loud and destructive because no one is listening to you. However, I also found that, at times, it looked like feminism was primarily destruction, rioting, solidarity by protest, etc.
There are some golden moments in which these students are bold and supportive, coming through this school like nothing ever before. I just feel that if the film were more focused it could do bigger things — again, a byproduct of making a movie about lots of things that are full of complexity.
Another note I felt the film fell short on was characters; while the cast is diverse and the characters are all very different, they feel very surface level despite their profound messages. Even Vivian, who wants to care for a cause and invoke passion about equality in others, begins blaming things such as being excluded from a dinner conversation on the patriarchy, and in that moment it feels disingenuous.
Her boyfriend Seth has little to him besides being down-to-Earth and into skating. It’s strange to me because the cause that the characters are fighting for all seems so individual to their experiences, but as an audience we know little about them besides the part of their intersectionalities that they pride themselves in. What does this revolution mean for all of these individuals? What did they pride themselves in before, if not these things they are emphasizing now?
These notes aside, Poehler has directed a visually brilliant version of Jennifer Mathieu’s novel of the same name. Everything from whiteboard signs to the soundtrack echo the message they are trying to convey, and I found myself eager to head bop along with their rallying cries. There are so many things that this movie does right, and I think that it for the most part outweighs trying to bite off more than it can chew.
This movie is a great watch if you’re looking for something woman-centric that’ll evoke emotion and at the end make you feel good. It varies between happy and dark, and it isn’t the pinnacle of film or feminism, but the message is so essential to everything we do. After watching, I realized there are few movies trying to accomplish something like this especially for younger audiences. While this is a very specific idea of feminism and a fight for equality, as the movie states, “doing something is better than doing nothing.” These characters take risks for what they believe in, and it’s emotional and heartwarming.
As we enter Women’s History Month, there are so many things that we can say and do, and this movie’s agenda is just the tip of the iceberg.