The Moth Diaries is the new film by Mary Harron, the director who was, most notably, responsible for American Psycho. That’s why I chose to watch this. It seemed to be a return to, if not true horror, blood based entertainment by a director who showed promise the first time around. I learned after the fact that the story was based on a novel, and that novel may or may not be placed in the teen section at your local bookstore.
The two main themes I got from The Moth Diaries was that 1. teen girls are really weird to each other, and 2. you should never trust the new girl. I list only two because the rest of the movie seems really confused on what should be occurring. There are no real motivations, no real reason for anything happening really, and each character seems so vapid and aimless you can’t really understand why they care about the goings on anyway. The basic synopsis is that Ernessa, played by Lily Cole, arrives at an all girl academy as the mysterious new girl. Our protagonist Rebecca, played by Sarah Bolger, then finds that Ernessa is moving into her friend circle and causing a ruckus. Ruckus is my spoiler free term for making her friends leave the school, some living, some not so much. Add in some supernatural allusions and you have this movie wrapped up.
Ernessa’s motivations are never explained or even fathomable. Rebecca seems more like a spoiled prep girl than a concerned friend most of the time. This results in the supposed tension between the characters playing more like confused awkwardness. Worse than the general awkwardness are the unexplained scenes that seem like they should pay off later or at least have a reason for being filmed. Without getting all spoiler-ish there are several sequences that take their time developing only to vanish into the wisping plot, never to be referred to again.
From my understanding, the book focuses on whether Rebecca is a paranoid and jealous teen or if Ernessa is an actual threat, beyond standard teen girl guidelines. In the cinematic version, there is no question that Rebecca is a paranoid and jealous teen and that Ernessa is an actual threat, beyond standard teen girl guidelines. This “have your cake and eat it too” approach makes the film seem like a floating, aimless concoction of directionless teen angst.
The real disappointment of The Moth Diaries, though, is all the missed promise and opportunity. It’s obvious that skill went into the creation of this. Camerawork and art direction are both top notch. All of the actresses do a respectable job of making it seem like they care about what is happening, even if what is happening seems vague and nebulous. Despite that skill, audiences are greeted by an aimless, confused piece of filmmaking that never really decides on the story it wants to tell.