There haven’t been many films that best described what life as a teenage journalist felt like until Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical classic Almost Famous hit our screens in the year 2000. Illustrating the highs and lows of being a rock critic for Rolling Stone magazine, while dedicating its magical soundtrack with a heartwarming ode to the late ‘70s, Crowe’s take on what was ultimately a love letter to the era and his spontaneous love of writing bared an image that spoke earnestly and truthfully. And, while not quite puncturing the same feel throughout its light-hearted wit and innumerable amount of sass, How To Build A Girl finds its own light in a story that dedicates its brash awkwardness and thriving ‘90s rock scene with a message that spreads hope in finding one’s self and their future.
Based on the coming-of-age novel of the same name, Coky Giedroyc takes Caitlin Moran’s feminist tale and gives it a magical home of its own. Dashed with magical realism throughout, and sprinkled entirely with the unfiltered look on a 16-year-old’s adolescence, How To Build A Girl follows the life of the bright and quirky Johana Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), who, while regularly escaping her Wolverhampton life to to her creative fantasies framed on her bedroom wall, is in a desperate attempt to free herself from her family-crowded home and to become all the more independent as a freelance writer. With courage from her older sibling, Johana attempts to submit a wholesome typed-up music review of Annie’s ‘The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow’ to a group of egocentric rock-indie critics at a weekly magazine. Through ambitious remarks and daily optimism from her imaginative icons (Jo March, Elizabeth Taylor & Julie Andrews), Johana soon finds aims for a chance to support her relatives through her writing, but most of all for herself.
Building on the image of how journalism is saturated with condescending opinions and lack of women, How To Build A Girl boldly illustrates how one teenage girl can change it all for good. Once brushed off as unqualified to fit the role as a writer, Johana steps back into what is ultimately her pit of darkness throughout the film. Reinventing herself with layers of black, topped off with a luminous mane of red hair underneath her rather quirky top hat, the Johana we once saw daydreaming around her bedroom to the voices of poets and female auteurs are gone. Instead we are shown someone living life through an imperious and self-deprecating lens, a character that once spoke from the heart but now rips apart bands and her loved ones for the sake of being acknowledged as the biggest “Asshole” at an award show. And while it is immensely sad to see a character we see in ourselves crumble before our very eyes, it’s good to see that a film like Giedroyc’s is confessing to the highs and lows that come with finding ones-self and eventually settling down- something truthful that is at the utmost inspiring and wonderful to see from a film.
Removing herself away from the burden that lingered with her for months, Johana finally tears down the wrongful things that made up her life and reinvents herself once again, only this time learning how truly in love she is with the world around her. Bearing the message that change is good and that presenting the unknown secret of yourself is even better, How To Build A Girl teaches the audience, particularly teenagers, that finding who you want to be can seem endless but once discovered can be the best quest of all. A timely endurance that is entirely special once learned that it’s all been for one person: you.