Friday, May 8, 2020

How to Build a Girl

Adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl introduces us to awkward and imaginative teenager Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) who finds a way to take her writing talent and use it not only to support her struggling lower-class family, but also reinvent herself into music critic Dolly Wilde.

Along with Johanna, the family Morrigan consists of her equally socially-awkard gay brother (Laurie Kynaston), a mother (Gemma Arterton) whose attention is consumed by newborn twins, and a father (Paddy Considine) who has yet to accept he was a rocker who was never good enough to make it big.

Triggered in part by need to help her family, but also by a desire to escape her lonely life, Johanna breaks out of her comfort zone. First through a love of music, and later through ruthless criticism, Johanna is transformed into the sassy Dolly Wilde. How to Build a Girl is part coming-of-age story, part self-exploration, and part morality tale how a little power can corrupt someone so easily and completely (especially an unsuspecting teen).

Although I have minor quibbles such as the length of the Dolly Wilde bitchy phase stretching out a bit too long, How to Build a Girl is an easy recommendation. It may not be as polished as Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, but its use of both music and the written word in developing and growing a character over the course of a film is quite similar. Also along for the ride is Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen as an equally sweet musician who very quickly steals Dolly's heart. Like its leading lady, the film is awkward at times but never without heart and a desire to deliver an engaging tale (which plays off big in the film's final act).

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