How To Build A Girl
review by Bobby Blakey
Beanie Feldstein shined in her 2019 film Booksmart. Now she is back leading the charge in her latest film How To Build A Girl based on the best-selling novel from Caitlin Moran and co-stars Alfie Allen, Paddy Considine, Chris O’Dowd, and Emma Thompson. Could this be yet another shining moment for this young actress or will it fail to find its place in the world?
How To Build A Girl follows Johanna Morrigan is a bright, quirky, 16-year-old who uses her colorful imagination to regularly escape her humdrum life in Wolverhampton and live out her creative fantasies. Desperate to break free from the overcrowded flat she shares with her four brothers and eccentric parents, she submits an earnestly penned and off-beat music review to a group of self-important indie rock critics at a weekly magazine. Despite being brushed off initially, Johana clamors to the top of the 90s rock music scene by reinventing herself as Dolly Wilde - a venerable, impossible-to-please music critic with an insatiable lust for fame, fortune, and men. It isn’t long before the rapid pace at which Johana’s life is changing becomes overwhelming and she runs face-first into a devastatingly real, existential crisis: Is this the type of girl she wants to become? Or does she need to start over and build again from the ground up?
Other than Feldstein starring in it I knew nothing about this film and that was all I needed. I found her so fun and charming in Booksmart that I have been eager to see what she did next and this was a great follow-up. Unlike that film she is front and center all on her own to carry the film and she does a great job. This is another coming of age story about identity, youth, family, love and all that in between that everyone struggles with as they find themselves. Feldstein is perfect here bringing the awkwardness to Johanna that is part of her charm and originality as well as the biggest obstacle that she must learn to deal with.
As the story progresses and Johanna begins to grow in confidence we head into familiar territory where she loses aspects of her true self in the attempt to gain what she thinks she needs. Here is where some of the elements are kind of by the numbers and you get the idea of where things are probably going to go, but thanks to Felstein being so engaging and fun to watch it feels fresh and new.
I had a great time with this movie that once again showcases the talents of Feldstein who carries this movie with ease. She is one of my favorite young stars right now and cannot wait to see what she does next. Be sure to check out this film available now at drive-ins and digital VOD from IFC Films.