“What’s the point of living if nobody loves you?” asks 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley, best known for her role on the British TV series M.I. High). This is the profound, if not very teenage girlie query that drives her actions for the duration of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel.
As Minnie’s sexual escapades augment rapidly starting from the day she loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), she immediately feels the need to commemorate them by speaking her experience into a dictaphone (you won’t remember those). Her ardor for Monroe escalates more than she wants it to, which could have been foretold by the fact that she traced an X with the blood from her freshly popped cherry onto his leg. Talk about territorial.
To further encourage her into what she calls “the making of a harlot,” Minnie nurtures her friendship with Kimmie (Madeleine Waters–a great porn name), whom her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), lovingly calls white trash. Which is somewhat rich coming from her, considering she brings all manner of drunkards and druggies to the house and doesn’t care if Minnie does a line here or there in front of her. With such a liberated household, it’s no wonder that Monroe feels obliged to take Minnie up on her offer to “fuck.” The emphasis on this word is key to understanding how desperately Minnie wants to trivialize having sex in order to mitigate how much she truly cares, at least about Monroe.
When Monroe tries to break it off with her for good, it drives Minnie crazy. To the height of her teen angstness, really. So livid and depressed by his shut-out, Minnie declares, “I hate men. That’s why I fuck them so hard.” But, of course, he lets her back into his apartment and onto his cock. All the while, Charlotte remains somewhat deliberately oblivious (preoccupying herself with Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, for example) to what’s going on between them, tipped off to it only when her ex-husband, Pascal (Christopher Meloni), tells her what he noticed when he came to visit Minnie and her sister, Gretel (Abigail Wait)–yes, Gretel. Although Monroe is briefly able to convince Charlotte that it’s all in her head, she eventually finds the numerous tapes Minnie has made detailing all the many encounters she’s had with Monroe, among others.
The discovery comes at a time when Minnie has actually moved on from Monroe to other pursuits, like women and Quaaludes. A time when she’s caught between the divide of self-loathing and self-confidence. By the end of her story, she gathers, “Maybe it isn’t about somebody else loving you.” The unspoken conclusion to that sentence is, “Maybe it’s about you loving yourself,” which Minnie finally does. Even if it took a few gross turns along the way to do so. But what else can one expect of 70s San Francisco?