How to Build a Girl

Could I BE any more bored?!
Verdict: 7/10 - How to Build a Girl lacks the bite of the source material, but is still enjoyable, with a captivating lead performance from Beanie Feldstein
Release Date: 
Friday, July 24, 2020
Written by: 

Beanie Feldstein plays a teenager who launches a career in music journalism in this coming-of-age comedy.


After making her name playing supporting characters, Beanie Feldstein finally steals the limelight in her first lead role.

In this adaptation of Caitlin Moran's semi-autobiography novel, Feldstein stars as Johanna Morrigan, a teenager living on a council estate with her working-class family Wolverhampton, England in the 1990s.

She is fed up with her lot, but her world completely changes when she applies to become a writer at D&ME music magazine in London.

After cutting her teeth with gig reviews, Johanna demands something more substantial and she is sent to interview musician John Kite (Alfie Allen).

When she turns in gushing, fangirl-style copy, she quickly learns her fellow music journalists don't care for that style, so she transforms her look and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, who writes scathing critiques that earn her respect among her colleagues but alienate her from her family, her school friends, and musicians.


Moran and John Niven's screenplay is sharp and witty, which is no surprise given their backgrounds in the music industry.

The source material is much more mature and adult, while the movie version is tamer and more sanitised, presumably to appeal to a wider audience. It just lacks a certain edge and the cynical bite that fans of the book might have been expecting.

Because of her sunny disposition and her streak of playing likeable characters, it was hard to believe Feldstein as this mean-spirited diva with a huge ego and a lack of remorse for her harsh comments.

However, the Lady Bird star puts in a charming, enthusiastic, and captivating performance, and throws herself into the Wolverhampton accent, although it wasn't always spot-on or consistent.

She has great support from Allen, who gets hurt by her words, Paddy Considine as her wannabe rock star father, who tries to use her position to help launch his career, and Sarah Solemani as her tired and stressed mother juggling four children on a shoestring budget.

There are plenty of cameos to watch out for as well, particularly on Johanna's God Wall - an assortment of pictures on her bedroom wall that react to her ramblings. Keep an eye out for Jameela Jamil as Cleopatra, Michael Sheen as Freud, and Lily Allen as Elizabeth Taylor, among others.

How to Build a Girl doesn't live up to the expectations of the novel but it’s still an enjoyable watch with a captivating lead performance.

Available on Amazon Prime Video from 24 July.

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