Film Review: How to Build A Girl

How to Build A Girl

How to Build A Girl - Credit: Archant

The story of how Crouch End columnist Caitlin Moran came to be a journalist has likeable performances and witty lines that don’t quite translate from the page

How to Build A Girl

How to Build A Girl - Credit: Archant

The How I Grew Up To Be A Journalist movie is not one of the most fiercely contested film genres. At the moment the clear winner in this limited field is An Education, but if you can make a successful film of How I Grew Up To Be Lynn Barber, surely you can make one on the rise of Crouch End columnist Caitlin Moran.

The distributors aren’t so sure; even though the reopened cinemas have very little in the way of new releases to go round (after some early bravado everybody is holding off until next week) this has been banished to the naughty step of Amazon Prime.

The fictional Moran is Johanna Morrigan, a precocious 16-year-old schoolgirl from a council house in Wolverhampton who wins a competition to be a rock critic on a fictionalised NME.

Too much too young surely and for a while she turns to the dark side.

How to Build A Girl

How to Build A Girl - Credit: Archant

To gain acceptance in the snide, entitled boys club of rock journalism, she puts any love to one side and just writes savage, cutting reviews, while alienating her family. The narrative tension is our fear that she will grow to become Julie Burchill.

The film’s great asset is the central performance of Feldstein as Johanna/Caitlin, and her performance’s great asset is a startling and adorable look.

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You’ll have seen it on the poster: rosy cheeks, a top hat, and ruby red hair looking like a cartoon character that has come to life and stolen the Johnny Depp role in a Tim Burton film.

She even has a convincing bash at the Wolverhampton accent, occasionally. I was going to say that she bustles through the film with the assurance of Rikki Lake in Hairspray, until I looked back and saw I’d made the same comparison about her in her breakout role in Booksmart.

Still, Rikki Lake in Hairspray is the podgy equivalent of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, so it is the highest possible praise in my book.

The film is enjoyable and there is a strong cast but it never really takes off. Perhaps because although the script is full of witty lines that look great written down, but rarely bullet themselves into killer dialogue.

3/4 stars

Go to for a review the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and The BFI’s Takeshi Kitano Collection boxset.