“It’s called Annabelle My Bloodied Heart.”
“You’d have a better chance with Annabelle if you gave your hair a wash, love.”
For a lot of us, growing up in our little communities can be trying. The urge to want to be free from our parents’ rule, or just getting away from the city, can be at forefront of our minds. For many of us, the urge is so great, that we’d do anything to be free. How to Build a Girl, based on the semi-autobiographical book by Caitlin Moran, is an eccentric coming-of-age story set during the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, of the UK’s early 1990s, and the liberation of one girl’s life at the center of it all.
If you’ve seen Booksmart, or even Lady Bird, the themes in How to Build a Girl are rather similar. In fact, both of those films gave Beanie Feldstein a chance to shine as the sweet sidekick to the protagonists of the stories, but not this time. This time, Feldstein gets her own commanding performance as Johanna Morrigan, a 16-year-old girl who reinvents herself as a rock critic for a well-known music publication. At first Johanna is miserable, living life speaking to the many pictures of well-accomplished figures on her wall (played by a plethora of talented British actors). Johanna’s mother (Sarah Solemani) is exhausted, having just had twins, and not being helped by the somewhat dead-beat father (Paddy Considine) who still dreams of one day becoming a rock musician. But it isn’t until Johanna’s brother, Krissi (Laurie Kynaston), throws her a curve ball by suggesting that Johanna write for N&ME.
Her new position, though initially not easy to come by, sets Johanna on a new adventure — reinventing herself with pink hair and a top hat — to become, Dolly Wilde.
Time and time again we’ve fallen in love with Feldstein’s sweet sidekick, but it’s about time that she finally receive a movie all her own. Feldstein takes her talents to a whole new level as Johanna — immersing herself in all the good and bad qualities of her character. You’ll love Johanna. You’ll root for her as she liberates herself from the dull life she leads, and you’ll cry with her when she feels like her dreams are collapsing around her. Feldstein and the rest of the cast work perfectly together — with the comedy between them bouncing like ping pong balls from one another. Even during some of the serious conversations throughout the film, there’s still little sprinkles of the typical sarcastic British humor, and it works great. From the very first moment you see Johanna sitting idly in the library, the comedy explodes on the screen, as she is immersed into a “handsome guy fantasy” with every man wanting her.
What sets How to Build a Girl apart from other coming-of-age stories, is the eccentricities of this one. The film has different layers between the quirky young girl, and eventually building to the harsh realities that come with adulthood. It’s both funny and heart-warming. The scenes between Johanna and John Kite (Alfie Allen) are especially where the heart is . The chemistry between the two is amazing. Yes, the story is enveloped in comedy, which never leads to a dull moment for our characters. However, with the amount of heart How to Build a Girl delivers to its audience — along with the meaningful message at the end — the film touches you, in addition to making you laugh.
How to Build a Girl is the type of film you want to see right now. And with so much free time on our hands, why wouldn’t you? It’s such a sweet story, you’ll want to watch it immediately. I have been championing Feldstein to get a much needed movie of her own. And after watching How to Build a Girl, all I can say is: look out world, because Beanie Feldstein is coming, and I couldn’t be happier.
How to Build a Girl hits select drive-in theaters and digital on May 8th
How to Build a Girl
Directed by: Coky Giedroyc
Written by: Caitlin Moran
Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Allen, Laurie Kynaston, Paddy Considine, Chris O’Dowd, and Emma Thompson