How to Build a Girl: Film Review

How to Build a Girl

I really enjoyed reading Caitlin Moran‘s semi-autobiographical novel How to Build a Girl a few years ago so I was thrilled when it was announced that she would be adapting it for a feature film. The movie isn’t perfect but it’s an enjoyable watch, led by a charming performance from Beanie Feldstein.

Feldstein stars as Johanna Morrigan, a teenager living on a council estate with her working-class family in Wolverhampton, England in the 1990s. Her world completely changes when she applies to become a writer at D&ME music magazine in London. She soon learns that her excitable fangirl nature isn’t their style, so she transforms her look and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a diva who writes scathing reviews.

Moran and John Niven‘s screenplay is sharp and witty, which is no surprise given their backgrounds in the music industry. They clearly have a lot to say about journalists who write nasty reviews just to appear cool and aloof. I just wished the film, directed by Coky Giedroyc, had more bite to it. I wasn’t expecting it to go as far as Niven’s Kill Your Friends but I would have liked to have felt their cynicism a bit more, especially considering Johanna turns into an absolute cow, chewing up and spitting out bands in her reviews like nobody’s business and becoming notorious for her savage remarks.

Given her naturally sunny disposition and previously likeable roles, I didn’t really buy Feldstein as this egotistical b**ch. However, she puts in a charming, enthusiastic, and captivating performance and surprised me with her Wolverhampton accent, although it wasn’t always spot-on. She has great support from Alfie Allen as musician John Kite, who she befriends, Paddy Considine as her wannabe rock star father, who tries to use her position to help launch his career, and Sarah Solemani as her tired and stressed mother. I also loved the addition of the God Wall – an assortment of pictures on her bedroom wall that react to her ramblings. I enjoyed spotting the cameos – such as Jameela Jamil as Cleopatra, Michael Sheen as Freud, and Lily Allen as Elizabeth Taylor – in that.

The source material is much more mature and adult so it’s a shame the movie adaptation is tamer and more sanitised, presumably so it has a broader appeal. It’s still a lovely enjoyable movie but I only liked it, which is disappointing, because I expected to love it.

Available on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 24th July 

Rating: 3.5/5

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