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Based on the book by Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl is an extraordinarily fun and heartfelt coming of age story. Released digitally on May 8, it is now available for rent.
The story follows overzealous student, Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), who lives in the Midlands in England, with her family who breeds border collies for a living. Johanna desperately wants to be a writer. She turns in thirty-page papers when she’s only been assigned 5 pages, submits poetry to a televised competition, and finds comfort in her wall of famous figures, which include: Jo March, Elizabeth Taylor, the Bronte sisters, Sylvia Plath, Sigmund Freud, Maria Von Trapp, and Cleopatra.
Johanna sees an ad in the paper, for a position as a rock critic. Knowing nothing about music, she submits her writing on “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, and shockingly enough, she ends up getting the job. From there, the film follows Johanna as she reinvents herself. Clad in a top hat, Doc Martins, and with brand new bright red hair, she begins her new job, taking on the new persona of Dolly Wilde. As her career progresses and she enters deeper and deeper into the brutal world of rock and roll, she struggles to hold onto her sense of self, her values, and her family.
Beanie Feldstein shines as Johanna Morrigan, adding energy and joy to every scene. Alfie Allen is dreamy and complex as rock star John Kite, even showing off his surprising vocals for a scene or two. The Morrigan family is sincere and delightful, with Laurie Kynaston as brother Krissi, Paddy Considine as father Pat, and Sarah Solemani as mother Angie. Emma Thompson makes a surprise appearance near the end of the film, and is as lovely as ever.
The plot is engaging if a little unrealistic. Watching Johanna go from city to city, and club to club without any concern from her parents is strange. Even with things at home being chaotic at home, most parents wouldn’t let their sixteen year old daughter fly to different cities with strangers and go to music venues where there will most certainly be drinking, drugs, and sex. However, this isn’t enough to dull the energetic and fun tone of this movie.
The movie switches from funny and ridiculous to heartbreaking and sincere in an instant. It leaves the audience with a powerful message about the importance of staying true to one’s self. Anyone looking for an escape from real life right now should watch this movie. The film is rated R, so do beware of adult themes.
Is How to Build a Girl realistic? Definitely not. But is it the heartfelt, mostly fun teen comedy that the world needs during this time of confusion? Absolutely.