How to Build a Girl review: Beanie Feldstein takes on Caitlin Moran coming-of-age tale

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We never tire of tales about people becoming who they were meant to be.

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by award-winning writer/journalist Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl traces the early career of Johanna Morrigan, a naive but hopeful working-class student in 1990s Wolverhampton who wishes to carve out her place in the world of journalism.

Johanna, played by Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein, manages to get a position at an influential music magazine D&ME amongst a group of arrogant posh boys who judge her and disregard her talent.

However, when Johanna creates a writing persona in the form of the acidic and relentlessly disparaging Dolly Wilde, she begins to become consumed by the monster she created.

With some more fantastical moments, a breezy pace, and a witty but never quite hilarious script, director Coky Giedroyc creates a highly watchable but light character piece they despite some period trappings and geographic specificity, lends itself well to its universal themes of identity and chasing one’s dreams.

Of the performers, of cours,e Feldstein has become a poster girl for the coming-of-age genre after her lovable roles in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and, of course, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, but here she truly embodies a young woman on the cusp of greatness, with a strong Wolverhampton accent and a likability even in Johanna’s more spiteful moments.

Johanna is a complicated heroine who thanks fo Feldstein always manages to avoid being too contemptible to enjoy.

While the film undoubtedly belongs to Feldstein, she gets wonderful support from skilled Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen as John Kite, a charismatic and gentle indie musician who Johanna becomes enamoured with but risks betraying as her ascent to fame brings out her darker side.

British acting genius Paddy Considine also appears as Johanna’s well-meaning but hopeless father who hadn’t lost hope of a successful music career of his own, while other famous cameos abound from Gemma Arterton and Lily Allen as Johanna’s historical heroines to Emma Thompson as an insightful figure who may hold the key to her future.

Full of music – good and bad – and big and brash personalities, How to Build a Girl is an enjoyable, relatable, and fun watch that still has the capacity to move. While not as amusing as its source material and in no way a groundbreaking cinematic offering, it is well worth your time.

How to Build a Girl is a sweet and winning adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical novel, anchored by an endearing and charismatic performance from Beanie Feldstein who is quickly become a poster child for the coming-of-age genre.

How to Build a Girl is released on Amazon Prime Video on July 24, 2020.

What is your favourite coming-of-age film? Let us know in the comments below.

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