After a struggling directorial debut titled Wine Country, Amy Poehler this time brings Moxie to the big screen, starring herself along with Hadley Robinson in the role of Vivian and Lauren Tsai as Claudia. This novel adaptation follows a high school student who becomes inspired by her mother’s rebellious days back in her youth and challenges the toxic, male-dominated status quo that female students suffer from. Her hand-made booklets reach a huge audience within the high school in a short time and cause further events to transpire in response.
Even though Moxie deals with toxic masculinity, and also partially with racism, it mostly maintains a light mood as the result of being a comedy drama. The relaxed approach to the plot development is especially dominant in the first half, where everything is presented lightly and without seriousness whatsoever. Mixed with its not-too-long runtime, Moxie’s pacing is one of its best qualities, as it does not drag for the most part, making it an easy to watch comedy drama.
The performances are not necessarily jaw-dropping, though for the genre the film finds itself in, they are surprisingly adequate. The acting might not be anything to be amazed by, but it also never feels out of place. This is partly due to well-done casting, but also because the script is not too demanding either. Poehler herself appears in a supporting role, who, as evident from her acting career thus far, has a knack for comedy.
Moxie furthermore deserves a round of applause for picking sociopolitical issues that unfortunately are either everyday occurrences or occasional dangers for millions of people worldwide, if not billions. Yet its choice of issues is heavily undermined by its comedic aspects. Some of the issues portrayed throughout the movie exist as a result of said issues not being taken seriously, and the movie unknowingly contributes to this effect rather than drawing attention with its light undertone.
Moreover, the plot development also suffers quite a lot by the random introduction of some of the issues; some of them being too heavy to be included in a comedy drama. There are too many subplots, none of which gets a full resolution by the time the credits roll. Most of the subplots end up being either irrelevant or only get resolved superficially. Some of the issues the film tries to draw attention to are cut short for the sake of another unnecessary scene about the main love interest, which never really develops either.
Moxie’s approach to racism is especially troubling, as it does its best to include people from different backgrounds, but ends up portraying them entirely according to the already assigned stereotypes. “That one Asian kid” has a very strict mother and “that one white guy” only cares about beer and football. It is not comprehensible how stereotyping characters is a statement on racism. In most cases, it is offensive. In the best case, it is outright ironic.
Furthermore, the film’s other aspects are unfortunately not that bright either. The music choice is one reason to watch the film muted, which would not be much of a problem, since the plot is mostly predictable anyway.
All of the aforementioned difficulties arise while out-of-place jokes are made about or by the white characters, yet it seems very confusing because the film’s stance is not clear. Is it poking fun at political correctness? Is it trying to be politically correct? What Moxie attempts to show to the audience is never fully out there. The selection of issues that the film showcases are definitely worth praising, as all of the issues the film brings up are of high significance to any modern society, and need solutions immediately. However, the way Poehler portrays it is simply problematic, as the film hugely suffers from meta-problems by failing to approach the issues appropriately, leaving the audience confused. Maybe Poehler as a director is a parallel to the Poehler as a Golden Globes host. Was she trying to poke fun at the politically correct atmosphere of Hollywood? Was she trying to be “woke” while making jokes, but failing miserably? We will most likely never know, and all the same applies to Moxie as well.