Award-winning US comedian, actress and producer Amy Poehler directs and stars in the upcoming girl power film Moxie.
Adapted from the novel of Jennifer Mathieu and released under Poehler’s all-female production company, Paper Kite Productions, Moxie tells the feminist, coming-of-age story of the shy 16-year-old Vivian (played by Hadley Robinson), who is forced to examine and resist unchecked behavior of fellow students after seeing first-hand the bullying of a new student (Alycia Pascual-Peña).
Emboldened by her mother’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past as part of the ‘90s underground feminist punk movement Riot grrrl, Vivian anonymously publishes a zine called Moxie to expose gender bias and wrongdoing at her high school, unexpectedly sparking a movement.
Moxie also stars Lauren Tsai as Claudia whose conservative Asian upbringing will clash with her bestfriend Vivian’s newfound cause, and Patrick Schwarzenegger (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s hunk son, in case you don’t know) as Mitchell, the anti-Moxie highschool football star. Also watch out for Nico Hiraga, the next big cutie on Netflix, as he plays Seth who, as per Poehler, provides the love story part that young women should aspire for. Moxie premieres on the streaming platform come March 3.
The film essentially touches on sexism, gender bias, victim-blaming, slut-shaming or issues that affect women more than the others.
Here’s our virtual Q&A with the Parks and Recreation star, where she talked about her own high school life experience, second directorial outing after Wine Country in 2019 and girl-power idols.
What were your high school years like? Did you go through a “rebellious stage”?
“I think I would probably say that my high school experience was very similar to the film. I went to a really big high school, we had 1,200 students. It felt a lot like the high school you see in the film, lots of rankings, lots of lists, a really strong athletic department, everybody worships the football players. There was a lot (in the film) that reminded me of my typical American high school experience.
“You know, I think that I was a lot like Vivian. I presented as a pretty extroverted kid but I was actually quite introverted, and I think I was really trying to figure out where I fit in. So, to answer your question, no, I didn’t have that really incredible, rebellious moment, you know. I was like a good student and wanted my parents to, you know… I really like, tried hard in school, and I should have had a little bit more fun. I waited until my 30s and then I really let it rip.”
Who has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to girl power?
“So many people inspire me right now, the young people who are leading, who are in charge of real change are inspiring me. The people that are working in small ways on the ground, grassroots movements. Like people who, for example, canvassed in Atlanta to work hard to get out the vote, and in doing so made incredible change all these young people in the field that are doing the hard work. I’m very, very inspired by them, and they’re making a huge change for our country.”
Can you just share what was the casting process for Hadley and Lauren, and also Patrick?
“I remember very clearly. When Lauren and Hadley both came in, we were like, ‘Oh, that’s our Vivian, that’s our Claudia.’ I think the casting has to be very organic. It’s like chemistry. So, we all were just like, ‘There we found it,’ and it was a huge relief, frankly, because you really need to believe these two women, and you really need to care about them in the film.
“And then watching them interact with each other, they really are introverted but glorious weirdos like they described themselves, and they bonded over in such great ways. They’re such talented artists.
“And then for Mitchell, Patrick Schwarzenegger came in to read and I thought he was so great and, you know, he has a very difficult part in the piece because he really has to play the system, he has to really represent when the system goes wrong and when it goes unchecked… He was really game and really lovely and he had to represent a really tough thing and he did it with a lot of grace. I’m really grateful that he stepped in and took this role because it wasn’t an easy one to take.”
What’s your favorite part of being a director?
“Oh, I love so many parts of it because it is a series of short stories and every time one starts, you think, ‘Oh, this is gonna be tough.’ Then, you’re in the middle of it, you’re like, ‘I don’t want it to end’ and then it ends and something else starts.
“Prep is its own, like, journey to try to carve away at the bottom of a movie mountain to try to figure out how we’re going to make this. Set is like a rodeo and you really try to hang on, and then post (production) is where you’re the surgeon and you get to go in and really sit in a dark room and try to figure out what you’ve made.
“And those are three really different experiences and they work different parts of your brain. It’s why I love processes. It’s never boring. And just when you’re getting used to one chapter, you have to move on to the next. So, it’s uncomfortable in all the ways that I like. And it’s the people, I mean, all the things I talked about are collaborative experiences with great people and I had such a pleasure to not only work with this cast, but incredible department heads who I worked with in various ways, who were just incredible artists who gave so much to this movie.”
What do you hope audiences will take away from your film?
“I hope people feel connected. I hope they’re moved, entertained and you know, it’s been a lonely year. So, I hope they feel a little less lonely.”