“When I first read Phoebe’s work, I was shaking with exuberance because I felt like it was the most honest portrayal of a teenage girl I had ever encountered,” said Heller on the film’s red carpet. “I realized that’s how boys must feel when they read Catcher in the Rye. I was like: ‘oh this is it, this is what it’s like to see what it feels like emotionally being a teenage girl exploring her sexuality.’ To see that reflected in a book meant a lot to me.”
The film tells the story of Minnie (played by Bel Powley), a 15-year-old girl who enters into an affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgard.
The book was based on the real-life diary entries of Phoebe Gloeckner. The subject matter may raise questions as to the choices made by both the main character, and perhaps more importantly, by the older man who embarks on a sexual journey with her, but Heller finds the message of empowerment and properly representing adolescent women more
“I just hope that we were able to capture the honesty, authenticity and bravery of Phoebe’s book into the movie. I think that for all women, but also for men, it can be empowering to feel like you’re authentically portrayed.” Heller said.
Gloeckner, who appeared to be a bit in shock by the reality of her first her red carpet premiere, said that society needs to focus more on the complexity of maturing as a young adolescent woman than on objectification.
“Society really heavily sexualizes young women. If you look at any porno site, teen [girls] is the number one hit on any of those things. It’s very superficial in the sense that that is the one aspect of young women that is looked at, and not as a component of the complex development of any individual,” said Gloeckner. “Boys are safer from that because they are not looked at as objects. They can develop more quietly without being so scrutinized.”
Kristen Wiig—a close friend of Marielle Heller—admitted to not reading the book prior to working on the film. However, she is proud of the story Heller tells.
“Mari did a really great job in writing the script and keeping the characters true to who they are, but also I think Bel’s character, you don’t really see female characters at that age really discover their sexuality in that way. I give Mari a lot of that credit.”
True to her comedic nature, when asked what advice she would give to young girls like Minnie, Wiig said, “Don’t sleep with your mom’s boyfriend if you can help it. “
Alexander Skarsgard admitted that in order to portray his character sincerely, he had to look past the creepiness of what his character does.
“I’m not condoning what he did. He’s hooking up with a 15-year-old girl—his girlfriend’s daughter. But at the same time, to make the relationship real, we needed to make it interesting. I didn’t want him to be just a predator,” said Skarsgard, who added that he needed to find Monroe’s weakness to create an interesting power balance between he and Minnie.
“In many ways, Monroe is the same age as Minnie; he’s very immature. He can be very precocious, but sometimes incredibly juvenile and immature. That created an interesting relationship.”
Skarsgard agreed with Heller in that the film is empowering for young women, and he is proud to be a part of it.
“It’s so refreshing to read a script that’s not judgmental; it’s not sentimental. It’s a coming of age story that’s very real and authentic. It addresses issues that at least I haven’t seen before: young girls are allowed to talk and think about sex. It’s not only young boys who can do that.”
The Diary of a Teenage Girl additional screenings:
Sunday, Jan. 25, 6:00 p.m.; Sundance Mountain Resport Screening Room
Monday, Jan. 26, 3:00 p.m.; Redstone Cinema 7
Thursday, Jan. 29, 8:30 a.m.; Prospector Square Theatre
Friday, Jan. 30, 2:30 p.m.; Library Center Theatre
Saturday, Jan. 31, 3:00 p.m.; The Grand Theatre