Some people have done astounding things in lockdown. They’ve written books, learned languages, got fit, taken to crafting, or they are scientists, key workers, people saving the world every day. Or just people surviving in the worst circumstances and not giving up. Hats off to them.
Others of us after a year of varying levels of lockdown aren’t doing quite so well. Apathy has set in. Cooking, eating and washing up feels like never ending Sisyphean torture. Wearing clothes other than pyjamas counts as an achievement. Leaving the house to go to shops feels like an activity that should warrant sponsorship. For some of us it’s all got a bit much.
So when Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler and based on the book by Jennifer Mathieu, landed on Netflix, we could just about be bothered to press play.
Thank god. Moxie is a movie that calls for us – all of us – to do something, to say something to try even if we get it wrong. Don’t give up, Moxie says. These are complicated times, but that doesn’t mean we get to opt out. And that’s a message to all of us, not just the Gen Z kids in the film who are learning about feminism for the first time, but the parents who can learn from those kids, the men and boys who can act as allies, the teachers whose inactivity or fear of getting it wrong leads to further injustice. What a glorious and uplifting message – people get things wrong, politics is complicated, try, fail, learn, get better.
Hadley Robinson stars as 16-year-old Vivian, daughter of Amy Poehler’s single mum Lisa, who back in the day was on her own mission to smash the patriarchy. Asked to write an essay about a cause she feels passionately about and what she did to change it she’s inspired by her mum’s old memorabilia to create a zine called Moxie which she distributes anonymously.
Once Vivian’s eyes are open to the casual, and not so casual, sexism that goes on in her school – an annual list classifying the girls in categories like ‘most bangable’, ‘best rack’, the marginalisation of the women’s football team compared to the men’s, double standards in dress code and a school syllabus that focuses on white male literature – she sees it everywhere.
Vivian has success, has failure, gets disillusioned, messes up and redeems herself by the end. It might be formulaic but that doesn’t make it any less effective. This might be a formula we have seen in coming of age films from Whip It to Booksmart and beyond, but here it fits perfectly in a film that is calling for us all to own our mistakes, get better and move on.
Against the backdrop of the Weinstein scandal and its wider implications (we see snippets of a news report in the background referring to women coming forward related to a not specified case), Moxie’s is a world in turmoil but one that celebrates the possibility of change.
Much has been made of ‘boomers vs millennials’ spats online – one is obsolete, the other entitled or something – while Gen X-ers are largely defined by other people forgetting we exist and us not really caring – the onus seems to be on Gen Z to save the world, an awful lot of pressure to lay on the shoulders of the young.
Moxie celebrates the vigour of youth while exploring how every age, race and gender can do their part, from the wonderful example of being an ally set by Vivian’s boyfriend Seth (Nico Hiraga), to the damaging dismissiveness of the Principal (Marcia Gay Harden) and the fear and avoidance of Vivian’s teacher Mr Davies (Ike Barinholtz) who finally comes through for the girls even if in a very small way.
Moxie isn’t just a call to action, it’s a celebration of passion and of giving a damn about something, while encouraging tolerance and understanding. It might look like a sweet coming-of-ager and a ‘girls first feminism’ handbook but it’s bigger than that. It’s one of the most current wholly positive and inclusive comedies to land on the streaming service and could be just what we need in 2021 and beyond.
Moxie is available to stream on Netflix now.