TIFF 19 Review : ‘How to Build a Girl’

Beanie Feldstein is a star on the rise.

Following her critically-acclaimed leading role in Booksmart, the actress stars as Johanna Morrigan in the film adaptation of author Caitlin Moran’s novel, “How to Build a Girl.” The movie follows Johanna, a shy and reserved teenage girl who is an aspiring writer living in the English town of Wolverhampton. When she gets the opportunity to become a music critic for a famous London magazine, everything changes as she is suddenly thrust into a world infinitely more grown-up and complicated than her own.

If you’re looking for the next great coming-of-age teen dramedy, than look no further. I know that’s a lot of genres to attach to one movie, but TIFF 19’s “How to Build a Girl” is so encompassing that it embodies all of these genres flawlessly. Ferociously funny and yet still able to move you to tears, there’s so much to love about this quirky and delightful English charmer.

The script, penned by the author herself, is whip-smart and snarky, showcasing English humour at its absolute best. That humour, coupled with an effortlessly cool soundtrack and a largely unknown cast, solidify “How to Build a Girl” as one hell of a great indie movie. “How to Build a Girl” is very much an indie darling for all the readers, writers and book lovers of the world. If you were that weird kid who was always had their head buried in a creative writing notebook, this is the movie for you. If you were the kid who spent all your time writing and obsessing over fictional characters, you’ll be able to relate.

It’s the aforementioned Feldstein to whom audiences are going to relate to the most. Feldstein is a charismatic leading actress who flawlessly adapts to each role she plays. Admittedly she often plays the role of “naive wallflower,” but she continually knocks the role out of the park in every movie she does. This time around she dons an English accent which although I found shocking at first, grew on me over time. That’s the charm of the delightfully talented and criminally underrated Feldstein. She shares a natural chemistry with essentially every member of the cast, especially Johanna’s love interest John Kite, played by the equally charming Alfie Allen.

Feldstein is a promising actress who I can’t wait to see more of. Although it may not be for this particular role, I could honestly see Feldstein snatching that elusive Best Actress Oscar one day. She has the dedication, talent and most importantly, the range.

“How to Build a Girl” is a true original. Quirky and fun without ever being pretentious or annoying, I can honestly say that I was never bored while watching this movie. One of the most enjoyable aspects of “How to Build a Girl” is how the seemingly simple story is far more deep than it appears. Full of interesting character transformations and heartbreaking betrayals, the movie will leave you guessing as to just how the whole thing will end. An intriguing and endlessly entertaining movie based on a “true-ish” story, the central message of “How to Build a Girl” is that coolness is overrated. It’s not only one of the reason why audiences will fall in love with this great coming-of-age movie, but also my new life motto moving forward.

“How to Build a Girl” is distributed by Lionsgate Films

[Review by Luke Elisio]

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