Netflix review: Teen girls find their voice in Amy Poehler’s inclusive ‘Moxie’

A scene from 'Moxie'

Vivian Carter was a timid introvert high school girl who mostly kept to herself and her best friend Claudia. On the first day of school, she was impressed when she saw new student Lucy Hernandez bravely stand her ground against the bully football team captain Mitchell Wilson. Inspired and emboldened, Vivian anonymously published her own newsletter called Moxie to voice out her thoughts about the rampant instances of sexism that went on in her school, and call her fellow girls into action against the disturbing status quo.

After small roles in recent films like "Little Women" (2019) and "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" (2020), Hadley Robinson finally broke through to play the lead role in this new teen film. She was spirited, perky and charming as Vivian, a typical teen starting to discover more aspects to her life. I was not completely in favor with all her decisions and actions along the way, especially her testy relationship with her mother Lisa (Amy Poehler), as she displayed churlish behavior which seemed uncalled for.

In the past, Asian teens were not usually included in ensemble high school flicks like this. However, the trend had fortunately been improving lately, with "To All the Boys" series (2018-2020) and "The Half of It" (2020) having Asian leads. Here, pretty Lauren Tsai played Vivian's best friend Claudia, a straight-laced Chinese girl with a strict, Mandarin-speaking tiger mom. Nico Hiraga played Vivian's love interest Seth Acosta, an Asian boy with mad skateboarding skills and a compassionate soul.

The female schoolmates who warmed up to Vivian's revolutionary initiative were played by Alycia Pascual-Peña (as outspoken new girl Lucy), Sidney Pascal (as soccer team captain Kiera), Anjelikka Washington (as Kiera's BFF Amaya), Sabrina Haskett (as Kaitlynn, whose sexy figure caused dress code issues) and Josephine Langford (as cheerleader Emma). The main antagonist Mitchell, the standard issue athletic jock we see in all high school films, is played by a young actor with a very familiar surname, Patrick Schwarzenegger.

Under Amy Poehler's direction, "Moxie" was as much a coming-of-age movie, as it was about young people, particularly girls, learning about and acting on social consciousness. Inclusivity is really part and parcel of the film's message, and the mixed-race casting made sure we see that.

I thought the film may have tried to take on too much, got confused in focus and felt slow at certain points. While there was a cathartic ending as would be expected, there were some sentiments expressed that did not resonate positively and felt anti-climactic.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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