Review: High school student sparks rebellion in Poehler's 'Moxie'

Amy Poehler directs story about a high schooler who sparks a student body revolution

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A high school student experiences her political awakening — or her awokening, if you will — in "Moxie," a spirited coming of age story about finding your voice and letting it be heard.  

Hadley Robinson stars as Vivian Carter, a 16-year-old at a California high school who takes a decidedly '90s approach to sticking it to the man: she anonymously starts publishing a zine which catches fire among the student body at Rockport High. Before she knows it, she's leading a movement, and she swiftly experiences the highs and lows of teenage revolution. 

Hadley Robinson and Nico Hiraga in "Moxie."

She doesn't start out as a leader. Vivian and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) are wallflowers who have accepted the school's status quo, including the annual publishing of a list that ranks students according to their most desirable sexual assets.

She begins to question the system in place when she sees the privilege afforded to head jock Mitchell Wilson (Patrick Schwarzenegger), set against the dismissive, disrespectful way he treats an outspoken new student, Lucy Hernandez (Alycia Pascual-Peña, the rebooted "Saved by the Bell"). Vivian's mom Lisa (Amy Poehler) is a riot grrl from way back, and spurred by her mother's youth activism (and Bikini Kill fandom), Vivian is inspired to take on the system, one photocopy at a time. 

"Moxie" is a bit messy and rough around the edges — Schwarzenegger's character is underdeveloped, as is the asleep-at-the-wheel high school principal, played by Marcia Gay Harden — but it's got a lot of spunk, and it proudly takes on more weighty issues than your average high school movie. It's directed by Poehler, who frames it as a tribute to change and the baby steps that lead to a movement. It's a Molotov cocktail disguised as a Shirley Temple. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Moxie'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13: for thematic elements, strong language and sexual material, and some teen drinking

Running time: 111 minutes

On Netflix