In 1990’s Wolverhampton, teenage Johanna (Feldstein) dreams of being a poet and escaping her working class life and family that includes a feckless wannabe musician dad (Considine), an exhausted mum and a brother who is the only one who understands her.
She’s quick to leave them all behind (despite them all seeming pretty fine to us) when she gets a job as a music writer on a rock newspaper and reinvents herself as flame-haired, savage critic named Dolly Wilde, writing notoriously mean reviews and revealing interviewee’s secrets – including those of a singer she befriends (Allen) – to further her career.
Based on talented British writer/journalist Caitlin Moran’s acclaimed memoir, this features some nice touches – Johanna has a bedroom wall of pictures of those who inspire her, like the Brontes and Jane Austen, and they talk back to her in her imagination – and an infectious performance from Feldstein, who is so likeable you cheer for her character even when she is at her bitchiest.
Unfortunately, she – and Moran – are let down by a director (Coky Giedroyc) who can’t seem to decide whether Johanna is his movie’s heroine or a cautionary tale, in a film that never finds its tone, veering unevenly between comedy and drama. Fans of the superb (and hilarious) TV series Raised By Wolves that was based on Moran’s childhood will be disappointed that this isn’t as sharp or funny, but at least they – and everyone else – will be rewarded with a few insights into the world of rock music criticism and another terrific, watchable turn from Beanie Feldstein.
Is How To Build A Girl suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 15 certificate film in the UK and R is in the US and is aimed at adults and older teens and isn’t suitable for younger kids.
The movie includes references to sex and drugs, and also includes sex scenes, strong language and a scene in which one of the characters self harms.
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