When I spoke with Bel Powely and Marielle Heller on August 3, 2015, the subject was, of course, sex. Their film, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, addresses that issues from the first scene, wherein the heroine, 15-year-old Minnie Goetz, proudly tells the audience that she’s just had sex and it was >amazing<.
I started the interview asking the pair why Minnie’s story was so compelling for them, and then asked what it was like for Heller, who had played Minnie on stage, to see someone else in the role she had adapted from the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. We went on to ponder why female sexuality makes some people so nervous, Powley’s unexpected revelation about sex after her first time, where the ratings board when wrong, why references to the Patty Hearst trial are more than just a period embellishment, and the importance of bangs.
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is a serious comedy about experimentation, rites of passage, and learning to love yourself. Powley plays Minnie Goetz, a 15-year-old in 1976 San Francisco negotiating the tricky road to maturity without the help of her emotionally fragile mother, her absent father, or her step-father who is both physically and emotionally distant. As the film opens, Minnie has just has sex for the first time, an experience that has left her dazzled with the brave new world of sensual delights that it has revealed to her. That the experience is with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe, and at Minnie’s instigation, adds a potent element of the forbidden. That the relationship continues while Monroe continues to date Minnie’s mother, and Minnie continues to explore her sexuality elsewhere, makes life confusing for Minnie, but also enormously interesting. Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the film takes the bold step of telling the story from Minnie’s point of view, a take that dares to see Minnie as a bold pioneer of her own life, who is never afraid to make a mistake, but is never a victim. The film co-stars Kristin Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard, and Christopher Meloni. Heller directed from her own script. Her previous work includes playing Minnie herself in an acclaimed stage adaptation of Gloeckner’s graphic novel. Powley’s previous work includes playing Princess Margaret in GIRL’S NIGHT OUT, playing Thomasina at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in Tom Stoppard’s ARCADIA, and Daisy Millar, an adolescent spy with a laser lipstick in television’s M.I. High.