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‘Moxie’: A new Netflix coming of age film supports activism during Women’s History Month

3.5/5 Stars

With March marking Women’s History Month, “Moxie,” a new coming of age rom-com drama, was released on Netflix March 3. The film caters to a younger audience and presents information in an easily digestible format. With a runtime of 1 hour 51 minutes, this film still brings a wide range of women’s issues into the spotlight through a high-school lens, demonstrating issues with dress code, sports pay gap, accepted microaggressions, with hints at immigration and LGBTQ culture. 

“Moxie” was directed by Amy Poehler, produced by herself, Kim Lessing and Morgan Sackett, and written by Tamara Chestna. This film was adapted from the 2017 novel by Jennifer Mathieu also titled “Moxie.” 

Hadley Robinson stars as Vivian, the protagonist of the film. Starring in supporting roles are Lauren Tsai as Claudia, Vivian’s best friend, Alycia Pascual-Pena as Lucy, the new girl in school, Nico Hirago as Seth, Vivian’s love interest, and Patrick Schwarzenegger as the main antagonist and bully, Mitchell. 

Other notable appearances include Amy Poehler as Lisa, Vivian’s mom who inspired the Moxie revolution, Isaac Barinholtz, known for roles in “Suicide Squad” and “Neighbors,” as Mr. Davis as well as Clark Gregg, known for his role as Agent Phil Coulson in “The Avengers” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” as John.

Beginning in Rockport High School, Vivian, a shy girl with a long-time best friend, Claudia, comes face-to-face with her feminist awakening after witnessing “more than annoying” acts of bullying between Lucy and Mitchell as a result of Lucy speaking against reading “The Great Gatsby” as an American classic, questioning a woman’s role. 

Vivian witnesses repeated microaggressions toward the school’s female population such as literal talking-over or silencing of voice, dress-code interruptions and a school superlative list where all the girls are ranked by their so-called attractive qualities among others. She takes it upon herself to secretly create a feminist “Moxie” zine in rebellion to shed light on deep-seated issues that shouldn’t be brushed off by school administration, avidly supported by everyone she knows. 

In a punk rock format, this film incorporates the musical stylings of “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill coupled with the campaign form featuring stickers, a zine and lots of sharpie. The pacing of “Moxie” fell into a comfortable beat, helped along with each stunt created by the Moxie girl group at school. Treading safely behind the line of being unrealistic, this film portrays high school life in a grounded hyperbole by giving the audience characters like people we know and love, but in a larger-than life setting. 

This movie does a good job at casting a surprisingly diverse group, although both the main protagonist and antagonist remain white among the core cast. Explicitly mentioned in the beginning of the film when Vivian and her mother, Lisa, talked about her mother’s previous feminist protests and gatherings, intersectionality wasn’t taken into account nearly as much as it should have. In a Cosmopolitan op-ed, Vivian’s view of feminism through a white lens proves problematic, especially when Vivian remains anonymous while those of color take a defining role in the film. 

Regardless, “Moxie” brings up several critical women’s issues, and does a great job covering such a wide range without it seeming like there’s a timer and checklist driving the plot to the finish. Specifically during the scene which addresses sports support and funding, “Moxie” made a statement which iterated women’s work is still unfinished, making this a great film to open up a conversation with a younger sibling and sit and talk about current issues and events.

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