Beanie Feldstein proved quite the capable actor in last year's Book Smart, but maintains only some of that magic in How to Build a Girl, the film version of Caitlin Moran's novel of the same name. Moran tackles the screenplay here as well and, like the book, bases the events of the film loosely on her own life as a 1990-something teenage rock critic for some alt.weekly rag in England.
Feldstein is Johanna, a precocious if painfully shy 16-year-old who longs to be cool, have sex, write for a living. Using a combination of moxie, hallucinations and sheer force of will, Johanna lands her dream job and must navigate snobby culture journos, a never-been musician father hellbent on her helping him make it, up-and-coming bands and a brief but tempestuous crush on some superstar singer (Game of Thrones alum Alfie Allen) who's far too old for her, but that's OK, maybe? Definitely not, but the film wants us to believe it will be one day in the not-too-distant future.
Girl starts strong with minor character turns from the likes of Michael Sheen and Sue Perkins, but quickly changes course to a dark-adjacent tale about staying true to oneself. Feldstein, meanwhile, transforms from lovably dorky into snarky cruelty so quickly; speeches are made about meaning what one writes, but someplace along the way she loses the thread. This hurts her family and her new friends, but she's all about making that paper (both news and money wise) and boning as many dudes as possible (which she describes in great detail to her brother, played by Laurie Kynaston, about the only character here who approaches anything close to authentic).
Conflict arises, Johanna learns lessons, a surprisingly kickass soundtrack plays in the background and everything winds up right where you assumed it might. Where things get confusing is in whether this film was attended for the YA set or people who've lived long enough to find the whole thing silly. Either way, it's not going down as one of Feldstein's greatest hits. In fact, we'll probably forget it (and he atrocious stab at a British accent) right around the end of…this sentence.
-Disjointed; silly; the faux British accent
How to Build a Girl
Directed by Coky Giedroyc
With Feldstein, Allen and Kynaston
Amazon, R, 102 min.