Film Review: How To Build A Girl, Amazon Prime Video

Film Review: How To Build A Girl, Amazon Prime

Channel 4 decided to stop making Caitlin Moran's semi-autobiographical sitcom Raised By Wolves after two series, but maybe if they had carried on it might have turned out something like this. How To Build A Girl tells the story of a feisty, individualistic Black Country teen finding her way in the world of journalism and coming out on top by remaining true to her core beliefs. Oh, and it's very funny too.

American actor Beanie Feldstein, from Booksmart, plays Johanna Morrigan, who spends most of her time reading or talking to the pictures on her wall of Freud, Sylvia Plath, the Brontes and Maria Von Trapp. Her mum (Sarah Solemani) is pre-occupied with a new baby, her camper van driving dad (Paddy Considine) still harbours long-gone dreams of making it as a rock star.

But it is a dream that comes true for Johanna when she applies for a job on a music paper and to her astonishment lands it – albeit only after giving as good as she gets to the music press boys' club when it turns out they only offered her an interview as a wind up because they couldn't believe a fan of the musical Annie would ever want to work for them.

From there Morrigan's rise is fairly meteoric. Eventually though, she ditches her manufactured cynicism of her top-hatted, red-headed byline creation Dolly Wilde for genuine enthusiasm. Which means rebuilding herself by ringing up on the landline in the hall and apologising to all the acts she has dissed in the past.

How To Build A Girl, directed with a breezy jollity by Coky Giedroyc, feels at times like a generic coming-of-age movie, shuttling somewhere between Tracey Beaker and Derry Girls. But then every now and again one senses the real Moran punching through the clichés. In one uncomfortable office scene there is a sexist #metoo moment which Morrigan deals with in her own inimitable style. In another scene Kerouac's On The Road is brilliantly summed up as "a very long book about a man getting a lift."

Elsewhere there's a sexual awakening montage which probably stops this from being a U certificate movie (do they still have U certificates?). For a film about the music industry it's pretty squeaky clean. Morrigan's relationship with rock star John Kite (Alfie Allen) is remarkably chaste.

Feldstein is eminently watchable as Morrigan, even if her accent does meander a little at times (maybe in fairness Moran says that she dropped her own Wolves brogue as soon as she moved to London). And there are some decent brief cameos from Chris O'Dowd as a regional TV presenter at the start and Emma Thompson as a hard-nosed Fleet Street boss who – spoiler alert – gives Morrigan a proper job at the end.

The result is a film about girl power, but nothing to do with the Spice Girls, this is Moran's particular brand of girl power. The power to be exactly what you want to be. Don't let somebody else build you. Work out how to build yourself. 

How To Build A Girl will be released on Amazon Prime Video on July 24th, 2020.

 

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