The Power of Reinvention: How to Build a Girl

Beanie Feldstein in How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl

Directed By: Coky Giedroyc

Oh my Gosh! Mel and Sue (from early season of the Great British Bake-Off) cameoed as the Brontë sisters and I didn’t even recognize them until I read it on IMBD!

And then I saw Lily Allen cameoed as honestly a distractingly bad Elizabeth Taylor -even in a picture- and thought okay that makes some sense.

The cameos are all on sixteen-year old school nerd Johanna Morgan’s wall of Gods who talk to her and give her advice on her way to becoming a wildly popular young rock critic who winds up supporting her large family all the while as she puts it, “going to the dark side.”

Beanie Feldstein in How to Build a Girl

If you suffer from second hand embarrassment there’s a few scenes at the beginning of the film that will make you cringe. I must say though this movie lived on Beanie Feldstein who completely went for broke on this one and was believable as the high school nerd and the living on the edge rock critic having the time of her life.

It was also interesting that she worked really well with the age thing. She’s sixteen throughout but you can also during her dark times see her as a twenty or thirty something writer. Also the 16 year old thing gets a little cringe worthy with the sex scenes especially when you think about the fact the guys are all a good deal older than her.

Dolly Wilde headlines in How to Build a Girl

I am a sucker for anything about writing and more than interested in the critic world so by far the most interesting part was when wide-eyed in love with the world Johanna nearly loses the job she desperately needs over a sweet interview with an up and coming singer (the wonderful Alfie Allen) she’s told in no uncertain terms that the critics are the “gatekeepers” and she’s not meant to love and support everything but go for the neck and take down the weakest.

Dolly takes that to heart and essentially becomes a critic monster not just talking about the art but also looks, acts and at one point suggesting suicide. A nasty streak that eventually leads to her turning on her family and her friendship with Allen’s character.

It is in that way a movie about the power of negativity mixed in with finding yourself while living under harsh circumstances as well as reinvention.

Alfie Allen and Beanie Feldstein

The negativity angle was most interesting to me because even blogging I often see streaks of posts about how people ‘don’t trust anyone that doesn’t do negative reviews,’ or they look for the negative reviews first and it seems a little kept secret that negative reviews tend to get the most interest.

I definitely think there’s a larger point there. I mean Johanna’s interview probably no one would have taken seriously as she wrote it but still I found unpleasantly believable the outsized popularity the more of a bitch she became.

Negative thoughts on the film…

Lots of unlikable side characters and Johanna there for quite a stretch. Allen isn’t in this nearly enough considering he’s about the only gentleman in the film. Plus I felt the end was a bit too quick of a turn around and disliked the talking directly to the camera. And while cutesy for a minute or two I don’t think the wall of Gods really worked.

But overall the performances and the writing subject matter got me past the weak spots.

Recommend: Yes.

7 comments

  1. This looks fascinating! I was just thinking the other day of the conflict of interest when it comes to journalism and the media, particularly in the Bollywood industry and tabloid papers, and how it has ultimately contributed to a few celebrities taking their lives e.g. Sushant Singh Rajput and Caroline Flack. And, in my experience blogging, I can’t help but notice that my Hermione Granger (problematic) and Pride and Prejudice (overrated) are two of my most viewed posts. It’s sad because I have a few other posts where I’ve discussed the complexities in Hermione’s character with much more nuance but it’s that post in particular which has gained the most views. And so, considering it from a journalists and reporters perspective, you have to wonder, given that it isn’t exactly the highest paid role, what choice do they have but to write stories like this? Or is there an alternative approach we can take? Journalistic integrity combined with mental health support – although, I don’t think the latter alone is sustainable because it doesn’t tackle the root causes and, in this case, the root is the lack of journalistic integrity – could be effective. But I think once the wave of support for the person who’s committed suicide as a result of the lack of integrity is over, we revert to our ways. Perhaps we need to look at ways to learn how to hold people into account who have genuinely committed horrific crimes or been an active bystander and when to be gentler and more helpful. I don’t know how The Power of Reinvention has performed, but I’d be interesting in finding out more! Brilliant review, lots to think about.

    • Thanks!

      It’s interesting reading up on the two people you mentioned. Very sad. I’ve read in a couple of places in recent months this idea that celebrities are fair game because they are rich and “that’s what they get paid for” which I guess means people treating them like crap (granted that was more idiots on social media) but journalism has pretty much shifted over to the Internet these days and they need people to click on their stuff and in the case of television support the 24 hour news cycle on multiple channels now and human beings mental health is never taken into account.

      • All fuelled by capitalism and subconsciously comparing ourselves on social media. Plus, journalism has always been an industry with a lot of struggle. What you said makes me think of the recent reaction to the picture of Kim and Kanye in their car and how it’s “fake” because the car isn’t even tinted. I just don’t find it believable that Kim’s emotions were faked there. But we gave way too much power to celebrities and then that drives them to want to stay relevant, it’s such a terrible cycle, not sure how we’ll break out of it.

      • I almost think the celebrities would have to do the breaking out first but considering the industry and the money involved with social media and celebrity journalism I’m not sure they ever completely could. I’ve heard stories especially with some of the younger celebrities that their social media numbers play a part in casting especially for roles in big films because companies think it will translate. Definitely a vicious circle.

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