Amy Poehler’s film Moxie arrived on Netflix at the beginning of March and has since risen into the Top 10 list. This follows Netflix’s previous decision to promote Poehler’s directorial debut Wine Country in 2019. Moxie by Poehler is based on the book of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.
In a school poisoned by sexism and a patriarchal mentality, Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is rallied by her mother (Amy Poehler) to make a zine to cause gender change.
Vivian’s shift comes after witnessing gross behavior against herself and so dons Poehler’s leather jacket to fight back. Despite witnessing abuse earlier by male bully Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), it was only after having it first-hand that Vivian questions her morals. By publishing a spunky zine Moxie, Vivian attempts to dismantle sexism one angsty page at a time.
Watching Moxie may feel like a progressive decision to let us see and question the harsh truths of our society. But, as the film really misses the mark, all we see is how out of touch Poehler’s adaptation is.
To clarify, many may recognize Poehler’s work on Parks and Recreation, or as one half of a duo with Tina Fey. So, you would be mistaken in thinking that Moxie would have any of the charismatic charms that either comedian has. However, when this fails, it relies on referencing Fey’s Mean Girls for Poehler to recapture any bored viewers.
Poehler does this by translating it into a modern environment ran by social media; admittedly making her Mean Girls clone close enough that it’s recognizable but could stand its own if it tried.
For instance, opening on a montage of the first day at school, we’re shown the various cliques of the school. The jocks, the goths, the nerds, the quirky kids. It all felt very on the nose. Not least when the film goes all Burn Book when Vivian turns to create zines. She was a cigarette away from discovering Arctic Monkeys for the first time.
While the story does have interesting progressive characters, and a cast that ticks all the inclusivity boxes. Exampled by characters that are disabled, transgender, and those on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Unfortunately, the narrative misses the point. For instance, having the leader of a resistance group be White among a group of Black, Asian and other minorities. Consequently, this really showed how much it misses the mark as far as making a statement towards political equality.
As frustrating as this was for me, I dread to think for those who wanted this to be an inspiration. This could have rallied a generation, causing an outcry of change that we need. But, as it missed the mark and became rather generic and unconsequential it ultimately had no real relevance.
Even at the very end of the film, when we as an audience are rallying for at minimum an expulsion of a student, all we are given is the headteacher calling them into the office and an overly dramatic zoom into the character’s face that would pair excellently with a humorous theme from Always Sunny or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Above all, it just needed a bit more to really reassure us that there were repercussions for the antagonistic characters.
In short, had Moxie concluded with Vivian realizing her inner flaws, and giving a platform to those that felt silenced or ignored, it would have made for a clear shift in her character and would have, in my opinion, encouraged us as an audience to do the same. But instead, it fails to deliver and leaves us with a bland realization that we just watched Amy Poehler try to find the answer to institutional sexism.
Though perhaps this is in fact what it was trying to teach us, and that by being conscious at a young age we can educate those around us, and cause change a person at a time. Or at the very least that Moxie tried too hard to make Mean Girls 2 happen.