Combustible Celluloid
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With: Beanie Feldstein, Paddy Considine, Alfie Allen, Laurie Kynaston, Emma Thompson, Alexei Sayle, Lily Allen, Gemma Arterton, Jameela Jamil, Lucy Punch, Chris O'Dowd, Sharon Horgan, Sue Perkins, Mel Giedroyc
Written by: Caitlin Moran, based on her book
Directed by: Coky Giedroyc
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language throughout and some teen drinking
Running Time: 102
Date: 05/08/2020

How to Build a Girl (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hell-Bent Dolly

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by journalist Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl is set in the early 1990s and shows how a young, hopeful writer is changed by the power of rock 'n' roll, not unlike last year's Blinded by the Light.

But, despite a time period that yielded a wealth of musical riches, How to Build a Girl is less about the music itself (in Blinded by the Light, the hero became obsessed with Bruce Springsteen), and more about the crazy lifestyle.

And, for the record, according to this movie, rock critics have infinitely more fun than movie critics.

Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) plays teen Johanna Morrigan, living with her huge family in Wolverhampton, England. Her father (Paddy Considine) is an unemployed drummer, and her mother is being run ragged with too many kids, and a new set of twins.

She shares half a room with her brother Krissi (Laurie Kynaston) and has papered her wall with her heroes, both fictional and historic; as in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, the pictures move and speak and offer advice (and are played by many notable actors in can-you-spot-them cameos).

Johanna applies for a job at a rock magazine, but, the chubby schoolgirl in glasses and an awkward backpack is laughed out the door. So she re-invents herself, via red hair, top hat, and fishnets, as "Dolly Wilde," and wins the job.

Her first interview, with pop star John Kite (Alfie Allen) is a whirlwind, and she writes a breathless story, but her editors scorn her. So she decides, henceforth, to be as nasty as possible, and becomes enormously popular. She begins to enjoy sex, alcohol, and exclusive parties.

How to Build a Girl rather flatlines with these sequences, and they're neither as funny nor as intoxicating as they could be, and the story then turns on a preposterously clueless idea when the father tries to re-ignite his own career.

The movie, overall, doesn't seem to have much distance from its real-life events, and there isn't much of an arc, but Feldstein still carries it. She's delightfully honest in her role, and her antics come from a place of genuine release. She's kind of a rock star.

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