REVIEW: ‘How To Build A Girl’ channels nostalgia in coming-of-age comedy

Beanie Feldstein plays Johanna Morrigan, a 16-year-old aspiring writer who dreams of a bigger life than her well-intentioned parents. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 August 2020

REVIEW: ‘How To Build A Girl’ channels nostalgia in coming-of-age comedy

  • Adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s novel recalls 1990s UK music scene in all its seedy glory

LONDON: Your enjoyment of “How To Build A Girl” will depend greatly on one thing: whether or not you can get past American actor Beanie Feldstein’s attempts at a regional British accent (Wolverhampton, specifically).

In all other areas, this big-screen adaptation of journalist Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel pitches it just about right. There’s an engaging protagonist to root for, a stellar ensemble cast, a lovingly nostalgic look back at the UK’s vibrant music scene of the Nineties, and a well-judged warts-and-all message buried at the heart of the movie.




“How To Build A Girl” is a big-screen adaptation of journalist Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiography. (Supplied)

Feldstein plays Johanna Morrigan, a 16-year-old aspiring writer who dreams of a bigger life than her well-intentioned parents (played with fond rawness by Paddy Considine and Sarah Solemani) ever had. Johanna applies for a job at a London-based music paper and (somewhat unbelievably) lands the gig as a music critic, moves out of her family’s crowded council house and down to the ‘big city,’ dyes her hair red and adopts the moniker Dolly Wilde.

As Dolly carves our a reputation for herself in the hedonistic music scene, Johanna’s family see her slip away from them, as the girl they remember faces off against a chauvinistic culture only too quick to prey on her naivety.




The film is directed by Coky Giedroyc. (Supplied)

That meandering accent aside, Feldstein is good value, imparting Johanna with enough smarts to hold her own, but also with a desperate need for acceptance and validation that is all too relatable. The characters she meets (from Alfie Allen’s good-natured musician to Frank Dillane’s sleazy journalist) pepper the lovingly recreated Nineties music industry with personality, and there’s a number of great blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos from some of the biggest names in UK entertainment.

The feel-good ending is a little telegraphed, and some of the more interesting relationships from Moran’s novel get shortchanged. But there’s enough to love about “How To Build A Girl” to make you forgive its shortcomings. Accents included.


Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

Updated 30 September 2020

Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood’s latest disaster movie offering, “Greenland,” sees humanity threatened by a comet on a collision course with Earth — Arab News sat down with stars Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin to find out more about the high-octane film.

While many disaster movies focus on experts in big-picture attempts to stop the disaster, “Greenland” keeps the stakes personal by following the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late.

“This story is so relatable because this guy, he’s not a Secret Service agent. He’s not a superhero,” Butler said of his character, John Garrity. “He’s just a dad and he’s not even a perfect dad.”

“Greenland” follows the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late. Supplied

As meteorites decimate cities and people give in to panic, the estranged Garrity family grows closer, mirroring Butler’s real-life relationships with his parents, who despite having not seen him in months due to COVID-19 restrictions, are still just as doting as ever. 

“It’s very sweet that they still care and you’re still their little boy,” Butler said, adding that he mined his relationship with his parents for insight on how to play a caring father. “That definitely helped me in the role, to play that father who will do anything in these trying times to try and protect his family in the midst of this craziness.”

The film was directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Supplied

And while their characters were growing closer, the actors formed a tight knit group as well. Co-star Morena Baccarin told Arab News that she coached and comforted the actor playing the family’s young son — Roger Dale Flloyd — and that she and Butler became good friends on set.

“There are days where you’re just so tired and you’re not in the mood or you don’t want to put yourself through the ringer emotionally,” Baccarin — who plays estranged wife Allison Garrity — said, adding “we just could check in with each other and be there for each other and that was really nice.”

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, the film has faced repeated delays in the US, but has already hit the big screens in some international markets — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE — where COVID-19 regulations have been amended.