Sixteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) lives a romantic and exciting life, at least in her imagination. The heroine of ” How to Build a Girl ” has (what she perceives to be) the misfortune of being from Wolverhampton, where everything seems to be dirty and old, where Mr. Darcys are scarce and opportunities are even scarcer.
Her sweet family is barely getting by. Dad (Paddy Considine) breeds illegal border collies to try to fund a rock career. Mom (Sarah Solemani) has two babies and a bout of postpartum depression. She has a chorus of “friends” on her wall (pictures of Jo March, Elizabeth Taylor, Sigmund Freud, Maria von Trapp, Sylvia Plath and so on) whom she talks to for advice, but there’s only so much comfort they can provide, especially when all of her living peers make fun of her. So Johanna starts taking steps to make things, and herself, better.
Based on Caitlin Moran’s semibiographical novel, “How to Build A Girl” is a wickedly funny, sweet and vibrantly told coming-of-age story that feels like a teen classic in the making. Feldstein has made a big impression in her relatively young career as the sweet best friend Julie in “Lady Bird” and the overachieving Molly in “Booksmart.” But her turn here as a teenage dreamer turned egomaniac rock critic may just be her best role yet, and that is very much in spite of the fact that her accent takes some getting used to and the actress herself is a full decade older than her character.