Monday, May 4, 2020

The remarkable Beanie Feldstein anchors Coky Giedroyc/Caitlin Moran's HOW TO BUILD A GIRL

How remarkable is Beanie Feldstein? Well, she was aces doing that supporting role in Lady Bird, then grabbed the brass ring as one of the leads in Booksmart. Just the other day, some of us learned she could sing, too, during that wonderful 90th birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim (watch it here). This week the Los Angeles born and raised actress opens as the star of HOW TO BUILD A GIRL, in which she plays the daughter of a very working class British family, with an acccent that seems -- to my ears, at least -- spot on. She also absolutely anchors this oddball little movie via her laser focus, boundless energy and ability to make us care, no matter how "offbeat" be some of her choices..

With a screenplay adapted from her own novel by Caitlin Moran (shown at left in the photo at right) and directed by Coky Giedroyc (at right), the presumably somewhat autobiographical novel-to-movie is so utterly and fully inhabited by Ms Feldstein that you could just about believe that she wrote and directed it, too.

This is not to take anything away from the talent and work of Ms Morgan and Ms Giedroyc; I am merely pointing out how perfect a kind of creative collaboration the combo of these three women provides. As odd as the tale is and further becomes, everything somehow works. And Ms Feldstein goes from a believable 16-year-old to so much more in the space of a mere hour and 42 minutes.

Morgan's theme, built right into her title, is how we become who we are and/or can be. All of us, men and women, have gone through this with varying results, and of course, we're still working on it. But most of us may not have started with quite the bizarre family situation that our hero Johanna has. Nor will we have taken the even more bizarre route that our heroine travels.

Our girl is clearly a writer from the outset. What to write about is the big question. Her journey takes her from a local televised poetry competition to penning reviews for a completely male-run music magazine to writing a feature rock-star profile, and finally to learning that, in this society, snark plays (and pays) better than praise.

Along the way, we spend time with her family: a music-besotted father (the always wonderful Paddy Considine) and kindly, caring, smart-ass brother (Laurie Kynaston, above, left), and finally and especially that particular rock star named John Kite, played with singular intelligence and delight by Alfie Allen, below. You can easily understand how Johanna could fall in love with this guy, as well as how he could be charmed to distraction by our girl.

How it all unravels and re-ravels proves increasingly joyous, if somewhat fraught, with a fine cameo from Emma Thompson (below, left) near the finale. As coming-of-age movie go, How to Build a Girl is singular and most welcome. I can't wait to see the result of Ms Feldstein's next role -- playing Mary in a movie version of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. Though if, as promised, director Richard Linklater takes as long on this one as he did on Boyhood, TrustMovies won't live long enough to see it. Damn!

From IFC Films and running 102 minutes, the movie opens in three actual theaters (hooray, but yes, they're drive-ins) in Glendale, Arizona; Sacramento, California; and Ocala, Florida) and on ditial and cable VOD this Friday, May 8 -- for purchase and/or rental. Go for it!

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