How do you create change? That’s one of the questions at the heart of Moxie, the story of Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a young woman whose high school is, in a word, toxic and the girls of which are disempowered and objectified. The boys literally create a list ranking each of the girls for their best “attribute”, like biggest breasts or “most bangable”, or in the case of Vivian, “most obedient.”
The answer, it turns out, is “however you can.” Tired of existing in a world so toxic, and after both being inspired by a new girl in class and by finding a suitcase full of mementoes from her mother, Lisa’s (Amy Poehler) past, she finds a way to create change with an anonymously produced ‘zine she calls “Moxie”.
And, spoiler alert, it works. Moxie is a story about finding your community and finding your power. The high school in this movie are comically toxic, but in all honestly, to surprisingly so. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the events depicted were based on real experiences, whether we’re talking about the misogynistic football team captain Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger) or the school principal Mrs Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden). He is perfectly content to brush aside claims of harassment claims against him.
The film really belongs to Hadley Robinson. Vivian goes from shy and introverted to outspoken and powerful, and Robinson navigates that admirably, especially the sequences in the second act where she faces some setbacks.
The film really shines when the young women of the school band together in support of one another and forge friendships that maybe wouldn’t have happened without the ‘zine to bring them together. From the spunky new girl to the soccer team captain, the trans girl (a nice bit of representation), to the shy best friend, they bring something to the special group. The relationship between Vivian and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) in particular feels lived in.
Where the film fails is in the structure: there aren’t really any surprises; it follows the formula pretty exactly, from the empowerment in the beginning to the setbacks in the middle to the eventual reveals at the end, there are no moments that will surprise you. Maybe though, that’s ok. If there is one thing to clarify about this movie, it is that I –a 40-year-old man– am not the target demographic. While Moxie is by no means subtle, we live in unsubtle times, and we need all the positive messaging we can get when it comes to encouraging people to stand up for themselves and for each other.
Moxie isn’t a perfect film, but it is a film that will likely be important for a lot of people. If you have teenagers, this is one to make sure they watch.
Moxie will premiere on Netflix this Wednesday, March 3rd.