Review: In 'How to Build a Girl,' Beanie Feldstein strikes the right notes
Feldstein plays a teenage journalist in coming-of-age comedy
Beanie Feldstein's charming performance forms the solid base of "How to Build a Girl," a coming-of-age comedy that follows familiar beats but has a winning disposition.
Feldstein plays Johanna Morrigan, a 16-year-old outcast in Wolverhampton, England, in the early 1990s who dreams of finding acceptance from her peers.
Instead she's picked on by her classmates and comes home to her cramped home where she shares a bedroom with her brother, separated only by a thin, makeshift wall.
Her best friends are the writers she admires, and the pictures she has of them on her wall (including Michael Sheen as Sigmund Freud and Lucy Punch as Sylvia Plath) talk to her in her imagination.
She can write herself, and a youth poetry contest gets her creative juices flowing. Soon she's banging down the door of a London music magazine where she becomes a staff music critic and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a brash, outspoken loudmouth who becomes the life of the party.
It's "Pygmalion" by way of "Almost Famous," and the bounce in Feldstein's step keeps it afloat even as Caitlin Moran's screenplay — she based it on her own semi-autobiographical novel — veers into clichéd greatest hits territory.
Johanna/Dolly forms a tight friendship with sensitive rocker John Kite ('Game of Thrones'" Alfie Allen), which feels underdeveloped, and is later used as the device from which the rug is pulled out from underneath her.
The story, meanwhile, mixes real bands with fictional figures (Kite isn't real, the Manic Street Preachers are), which results is an odd dance between fact and fiction. But focus on Feldstein and this "Girl's" got plenty to admire.
'How to Build a Girl'
Rated R: for sexual content, language throughout and some teen drinking
Running time: 102 minutes