Amy Poehler’s Moxie (adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu) does not add anything new to the discussion surrounding the oppression of women in a patriarchal society. The issues it treads on are familiar and have been cinematically handled well in many similarly-themed different movies. What Moxie instead does is it amplifies the voices, the oppression faced by the women using the loudest speaker on its loudest volume.
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is a 16-year-old introvert who has just started attending the 11th grade. Similar to the other students on her campus, she does not consider it a problem when a boy misbehaves with a girl student. She treats the misbehaviour as “annoying conduct.” It’s just how boys behave. If they trash talk or speak rudely with a woman, then that’s natural and an accepted norm from their side. This is the kind of value embedded in these students. Therefore, it is not surprising that Vivian is surprised by Lucy’s (Alycia Pascual-Peña) decision to not let some jerk keep her from lifting her head.
The teachers are no saints either. Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden) is a woman who ignores complaints coming from the female students and chooses to side with the football player Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger). The words “football player” should have alerted you that he is the villain. Yes, Moxie is that teenage film where football players are automatically bad. You will also find “groups” (the sports group, the cheerleading group, the musical band group, and so on) giggling around the campus. The closest Moxie comes to deviating from riding on a cliché is when it shows how people do not always like being typecast in a certain way. For instance, in terms of Moxie, the blonde cheerleader may not fancy being categorised as “Most Bangable”. But that’s it. Moxie uses women empowerment as a pretext to churn out yet another clichéd “teenage movie”.
The beats have all been heard before. The formula is as familiar as the whole square of a+b. In such demotivating circumstances, Vivian and Claudia’s (Lauren Tsai) friendship strengthens Moxie. Also an introvert, Claudia thinks two is enough, and three is a crowd. More than three? A stressful rabble. For that reason, she hangs out with Vivian and Vivian only. She is more than enough for her. Bearing that in mind, notice Claudia’s uncomfortable face when Lucy asks if she could join their small group. Poehler shines as a filmmaker when dealing with this pair. There is an unbroken tracking shot at a party which is more than a show-off. The substance comes from the shyness of Claudia and Vivian. Given how they avoid a gathering, the unbroken shot makes them experience the real-time torture of walking through a crowd. No type of cut comes to save their day.
The quiet and subtle bond between Vivian and Claudia is something that stays with you long after the movie ends. Given how Moxie practically screams its social issue, it’s normal to crave some minutes of thoughtfulness and silence, all of which is between this duo. They worked as a force of gravity that attracted me towards Moxie whenever I was pulled away from it. Unfortunately, as the film is spearheaded by another thread, this angle is not explored properly. Moxie exposes the double standards of feminism when a girl gleefully remarks how one of their friends “took one for the team”. Sometimes, it’s the women who gulp down the term “feminism” without thinking about what it really means.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.