MOLLY MAXWELL (Sara St. Onge). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (April 19) at the Carlton. See Times. Rating: NNNN
Molly Maxwell is a casually and confidently told coming-of-age tale about the titular 16-year-old’s ill-advised romance with her youngish (but too old for her) English teacher.
Director Sara St. Onge has found the perfect young star in the charming Lola Tash, who alternates with ease between adorable kid, awkward teen and dangerous seductress. Whatever flaws the film may have can be overlooked because Tash sells them so well.
Her Molly is the child of ultra-liberal parents who send her to a progressive school that encourages unique artistic endeavours. Banjo-playing and breakdancing are on the curriculum in a school where being quirky seems to be a prerequisite.
It’s as if Molly’s been cast in a Jason Reitman movie but can’t quite get her Juno on. Amidst all the self-conscious idiosyncrasies, Molly’s amorous relationship with the hunky English teacher (Charlie Carrick) seems natural by comparison – though I should add that the film savours every awkward beat of their romance.
This is provocative territory for such light-hearted fare, but St. Onge isn’t interested in using the legally complicated affair to tell the standard cautionary tale. Her characters aren’t punished for bad behaviour.
Instead, they make their mistakes with conviction and use the fallout to build character. There’s maturity in there that no amount of manufactured quirkiness can undo.