How to Build a Girl review – charming, funny, raunchy and sweet

June 7, 2020 (Last updated: February 20, 2022)
M.N. Miller 0
Movie Reviews, Movies
How to Build a Girl review - charming, funny, raunchy and sweet


How To Build A Girl is a charming, funny, raunchy, even sweet coming-of-age tale that suffers from the script’s overindulgence of its protagonist’s quirkiness.

How to Build a Girl, the zany coming of age comedy that, depending on who you talk to, is a semi-autobiographical tale of Catherine “Caitlin” Moran, a journalist in England who writes for The Times, where she writes multiple columns that range from music, television reviews, and a “celebrity watch” feature. I’ve never read the book, but from what I can make out, Catlin is every bit the eccentric that many English are stereotyped as. Beanie Feldstein portrays Catlin, and along with its charming, funny, raunchy, and even sweet story, the film overall suffers from the protagonist’s heightened quirkiness and prevents it from becoming a true classic when it was damn close.

Caitlin (Feldstein) is a brilliant high-school student who, refreshingly, when you consider how teenaged, book-smart girls are portrayed in movies, finds herself distracted by the thought of every living, breathing human boy who walks the halls of her secondary school. Her father, Pat (a nearly unrecognizable Paddy Considine), is a former drummer and actor who is currently cheating the government of disability checks. Her mother, Angie (Greed’s Sarah Solemani), is nine to five moms checked out by dinner. She has a bunch of siblings and is closest to her brother, Krissi (Cradle to the Grave’s Laurie Kynaston), and even more, dogs roaming the house. Bored with her life but born with ambition in her soul, she finagles a job as a music journalist for a popular daily and helps support her family.

Moran also wrote how to Build A Girl‘s screenplay, adapted from her book of the same name. The film combines sweet and sour, including a big teaspoon of mental health issues that it glosses over rather quickly. There are also peculiar subplots involving Caitlin’s story that are too cute for their excellent. She has no friends and always has her nose in a book or writing, and imagines talking to significant historical figures she has posted to her wall instead of BTS poster that most girls her age had on their wall — or in her case, in the early nineties, probably New Kids on the Block (yes kids, the guy from Blue Bloods used to be in a boy band).

Most of these characters are played by more prominent names. Michael Sheen plays Dr. Freud (or maybe the Surgeon, who can tell), while Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) takes a turn as Cleopatra and Chris O’Dowd (Juliet, Naked) pops up as Alan “Wilko” Wilkinson. Sadly, while mildly entertaining, these devices become tired and take you out of the unique and exciting story on its own.

The real selling point here is Feldstein and the sweet, refreshing chemistry she has with Alfie Allen, who plays a rocker she connects with during her first interview. It gives the film an extra layer of Caitlin to relate to when there are so few she does in her real-world — including the frat boy meatheads she writes with. Allen brings genuine pathos to the role that few other characters in the film have here, which tend to be cardboard at best outside her immediate family.

In all, director Coky Giedroyc’s first theatrical feature is a solid coming-of-age film. Suppose the movie toned down the eccentric flathead characters on Caitlin’s wall, the frat-boy antics, and spent a little more time on the mental health side of this story. In that case, they could have had an instant classic here that they possibly couldn’t reach with Moran writing her characterization.

At the very least, How to Build a Girl is worth the price for the on-fire Beanie Feldstein, who holds the film together with heart, wit, and a touch of grace.

We are fast becoming the number one independent website for streaming coverage. Please support Ready Steady Cut today. Secure its future — we need you!

Become a Patron!

For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?

Find where to watch this and more with our Discovery Tool

Explore Now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.