It was only a matter of time before the first riot mum movie, right? Based on high school English teacher Jennifer Mathieu’s 2015 YA novel, Moxie brings the revolutionary trappings of the early ’90s riot grrrl movement – photocopied fanzines, the serrated sound of Bikini Kill and leather jackets with way too many badges – to a generation born decades too late to experience it the first time around. With Amy Poehler in her first directorial outing since 2019’s mums-on-the-lash comedy Wine Country, Moxie never sugar-coats its serious message, but isn’t afraid to have a little fun along the way.
As well as directing, Poehler plays Lisa, a 40-something riot grrrl in remission and single mother to introverted teen Vivian – Utopia’s Hadley Robinson in her first major film role. Vivian’s high school is the stuff of classic movie legend, full of pushy, pervy jocks who run the place while everyone else has learned to keep their mouths shut. But with the arrival of new student Lucy (a fabulous Alycia Pascual-Peña), who is shocked at the backwards state of the school, things start to change.
It’s Lucy who coolly takes down The Great Gatsby in an English class for being a book “about a rich white guy by a rich white guy” and asks why they’re not studying the stories of the working class, immigrants, Black mothers “or somebody who doesn’t already have a mansion”. When Lucy points out that male students harassing female students shouldn’t be tolerated, Vivian is almost instantly radicalised.
Inspired by her mum’s collection of vintage fanzines – which she finds in a dusty case covered in punk rock Descendents stickers complete with a picture which sees Poehler photoshopped into a classic Bikini Kill press shot – Vivian makes one of her own, anonymously distributing copies of Moxie around the school, calling out a dress code that focuses solely on the female students and polices women for men’s behaviour.
In a time where teenage lives are now led largely on phone screens, a paper product like a fanzine seems even more radical than it did 30 years ago. But as teachers wash their hands of the situation, the female student body spread the message of Moxie far and wide, standing up to the movie’s main villain: pushy, arrogant captain of the football team, Mitchell, played with perfectly sinister ‘I’m actually an ok guy’ energy by Patrick Schwarzenegger.
With such a strong feminist storyline, the fact that both Vivian and Lisa have to find love – or boyfriends at the very least – in order to be truly happy seems a little crass, but it’s hard to deny the adorableness of Vivian’s burgeoning relationship with Nico Hiraga’s feminist ally Seth and their late night date to a funeral parlour. Moxie might not be perfect, but revolutions rarely are.
- Director: Amy Poehler
- Starring: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena
- Release date: March 3 (Netflix)