It’s sort of ironic that I happened to watch The Girl in the Book and Diary of a Teenage Girl completely unpremeditated within the same week. Both revolve around statutory rape and portray strong female protagonists, but the stories they are a part of highlight different levels of artistic accomplishment. Also, let’s be honest here, I only came across TGitB due to Emily VanCamp, whom I have adored in a totally non-obsessive way ever since Everwood. As chance would have it, she has been involved in several mildly successful small movies (Carriers, Norman, Beyond the Blackboard) and this one is the latest in a series from which I would most recommend Beyond the Blackboard (2011).
Unfortunately for TGitB, it does not take the time to achieve more. As we get to know Alice, both in her youth, when she is abused by a mentoring writer, and in her young adult life, when she is handed the job of overseeing the re-release of the same writer’s magnum opus, it becomes apparent that her disheveled present is rooted in this particular past. Detached, self-destructive and incapable of forming lasting relationships, she struggles for meaning and purpose in the hope of ultimately rediscovering her love of writing, her joy for living.
This gloomy predicament is anchored in Emily VanCamp’s strong performance, but at a mere 86 minutes runtime, it’s not enough to convincingly build her character’s transformation. The worst hit is her redeeming romance with young and idealistic Emmett, your very own Marty Stu character type, which goes from zero to “one hundred reasons you should forgive me” within twenty minutes. It’s a shame that for all its melodrama, it avoids dramatic weight with a vengeance, in a story bow-tied ending you see coming from miles away.
Fortunately, the film is not so much about the narrative arc, as it is about its central character, so its faults are bearable. But it’s a shame, because it does little with a variation on the Gone Girl scenario about the dividing line(s) between degrees of fictional characters. The escape it sets up is therefore neither original enough, nor thorough enough to elicit your utmost attention and care at all critical junctions.
Originally posted on imdb.