This photo is from the official trailer of “Moxie,” distributed by Netflix

“Moxie,” directed by Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”), stars Hadley Robinson (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”) as 16-year-old Vivian who anonymously starts a feminist zine when she becomes fed up with the sexism at her school.

The movie opens with a nightmare sequence. Vivian is running through a forest while being chased by something. But when she opens her mouth to scream, nothing comes out. This scene gets straight to the point of the film –– Vivian feels voiceless. Specifically, she feels voiceless at school, where an overwhelming environment of misogyny seems to be the norm. It comes from everyone, whether it be the school’s star football player (Patrick Schwarzenegger, “Midnight Sun”), their teacher (Ike Barinholtz, “Neighbors”) or the principal (Marcia Gay Harden, “Into the Wild”), who turns a blind eye when harassment is reported. When Vivian decides that enough is enough, she turns to her mother’s (Poehler) feminist past, pulling together a zine called Moxie and distributing it around the school.

As a main character, Vivian is dull. Throughout the movie, she is surrounded by girls who are far more interesting, but they are only given a couple of scenes to talk about the harassment they face. In one scene, Vivian’s friend CJ (Josie Totah, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) talks about how, as a transgender student, her classmates and teachers fail to call her by her name. But CJ’s character is not given the same depth as Vivian’s, so we never really get to know her. It makes these parts of the film feel performative and begs the question: Why does Vivian have to be the main character of this story?

On top of not being interesting, Vivian is incredibly frustrating. For example, when she and her crush Seth (Nico Hiraga, “Booksmart”) go on their first date, he takes her to a funeral home. The two of them walk around, pick their favorite coffin and end up lying in one together as they listen to music and talk about feminism. That alone was enough to give me doubts about this movie –– who would ever go to a funeral home for a first date? Vivian proceeds to tell him that she likes that no one at school knows she created Moxie, saying she enjoys not having “to talk about it or explain it.” This is probably what feels the most frustrating about Vivian as a character: She lacks Although she created the zine, she hides behind it because she is too afraid to actually stand up for her classmates. She watches her friends get harassed and ends up letting them take the fall for the trouble the zine causes. 

Another scene includes a painfully awkward dinner between Vivian, her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend (Clark Gregg, “The Avengers”) that results in Vivian storming away from the table, yelling, “Fuck the patriarchy!” It feels incredibly forced, contrived and shallow. There are several of these “eye-roll” moments, where buzzy feminist phrases are awkwardly inserted into dialogue, making many scenes feel over the top and too on the nose. 

“Moxie” wasn’t unenjoyable –– it was watchable and entertaining. But I think we should be wary of romantic-comedy type movies that also try to be activist films. Not that every movie about sexism has to be dark and dramatic, but they should still offer some sort of insightful commentary about feminism. “Moxie,” while dabbling in feminist waters, simply doesn’t go deep enough. 

Daily Arts Writer Judith Lawrence can be reached at