Most less-than-stellar films are frustrating for the most obvious of reasons – they’re vapid, too long, too short, too complicated, too simple, boring, loud, insulting, BLAHBLAHSPLOSIONS, etc. Occasionally one comes along that pisses you off mostly because it really should have been a LOT better. The Moth Diaries is a perfect example of the latter situation. And of misleading advertising. *cough*
With a brilliant novel as its foundation, a very capable director (American Psycho‘s Mary Harron), a cast very much up to the task – among them The Tudor‘s Sarah Bolger and Snow White & The Huntsman‘s model/actress/striking-and-otherworldly Lily Cole, and a powerfully resonating story for women (especially those who still remember their youth) – The Moth Diaries should have been a slam-dunk. Instead, it’s a bit of a brick.
Which is a darn shame, because the story – about a teenaged girl in a timeless boarding school who may or may not be losing her best friend to a vampire – is actually quite powerful. And nearly-universal – at least for chicks, like us. Sure, most of us don’t go to fancy boarding schools – especially ones that require we dress in heavy, white, floor-length nighties. But whatever. Most of us have or have had best friends through our years, and most of us have experienced the terror of adolescence and the pain of that whole change. Although I doubt many of us had the same kinds of undead-related concerns as our heroine here.
Based on novel of the same name by Anne Klein, The Moth Diaries – and despite the fanbase-aimed trailer – it isn’t really about vampirism or lesbianism. It may be – but it may be about something entirely medical and explainable. Part of the genius of the novel is that the tension is drawn tighter with each page of the narrator’s diary – with each page there is something new that could bolster either argument: she’s crazy, or she’s got a vampire problem. Sadly, it seems that the popularity of a certain un-named series creeped into the filmic adaptation… because the movie certainly highlights the vampire theory. Where the book is purposefully vague and intentionally leading (and mis-leading), the movie seems to lean in a certain direction – especially with an ending that feels as though it better belonged on Supernatural.
Ultimately, this lack of conviction robs The Moth Diaries of the majority of its oomph. Worse still? The final moments insult the viewer with a pitiful attempt to re-hash the “was Ernessa or wasn’t she…?” contrivance. This scene makes no sense in either the supernatural *or* natural versions of the story, ultimately leaving you with that “Test Audience Add-On” feeling. MEH.
You could certainly find something worse to do with 85 minutes of your time – The Moth Diaries is beautiful to look at, has a great soundtrack, and isn’t going to make you feel like you need a shower afterward. But it’s not going to sweep you off of your fuzzy-slippers, or bend your hungry mind. For that – try the book.