Depending on where you fall in the demographics, Generation X is probably one of those things that you're either in love with or can't honestly abide.
As an elder millennial writing this review, the endless reverence for Generation X in 'Moxie' can become at times exhausting. Yet, for those of Generation Z - the children of Generation X - it's something that holds fascination for them. In fact, in 'Moxie', it makes this connection literal.
Amy Poehler's a former "Riot Grrl" who's raised a young daughter, played by newcomer Hadley Robinson. The story takes place in the halls of your typical US high school where, each year, a list is posted that ranks the female students along the lines of Most F*ckable, Best Ass, Best Rack, and other derogatory categories.
Viv - Hadley Robinson's character - becomes angered by the school's apparent tolerance of all of this, and decides to pen a zine called 'Moxie' that addresses these and other glaring issues at the school. It isn't long before other students begin to feel emboldened by the zine and its message, and with it, Viv begins to become more assertive and determined to bring down the order in the school.
For a teen movie aimed at this generation, 'Moxie' feels much more lo-fi than anything out there. It doesn't have any of the pretensions of HBO's 'Euphoria', nor does it have the gloss of something like 'The Outer Banks'. Instead, it's a decidedly grungey aesthetic and Poehler's direction and pacing is much more laid back. The soundtrack often features '90s staple tracks covered in a new fashion, and the costumes the late-teen cast begins to become more lined with the green-black colour scheme of grungers from yesteryear.
That the movie so actively embraces the DIY, decidedly offline format of paper zines is no accident. Just about everything negative comes from the internet in 'Moxie'. The list which kicks the whole thing off is posted online and sent through message groups to the entire school. Later on in the movie, a big reveal is made not through an e-mail or an anonymous message online, but on a handwritten paper note.
Likewise, when one of the students - Alycia Pascual-Peña - tries to alert the oblivious headmaster played by Marcia Gay Harden, she waves it all off "social media" and claims ignorance to it - even though it's written in black and white. The dynamic between Hadley Robinson and Amy Poehler as mother and daughter is warm and lived-in, and you can tell great care has gone into casting the movie. That said, Patrick Schwarzenegger may have been an obvious choice to play an uber-privileged all-star quarterback, but so what? The themes and issues 'Moxie' deal with are clearly defined, so too should be casting its villain.
Poehler's comedic sensibilities may be dialled back, but her performance isn't the lesser for it. 'Moxie' does skirt with some dark moments, particularly toward the final act, and you get the sense that trying to move it any further would potentially push the whole thing over into something else entirely rather than keeping it on the lighter side. It's not that it doesn't deal with these moments falsely, or minimises them.
Rather, it tries to take in too much and loses some of its impact. It's not perfect, but 'Moxie' isn't trying to be that. It's simply trying to be.
'Moxie' is streaming on Netflix now.