Caitlin Moran’s How To Build A Girl, Movie Review

How to Build A Girl 

Directed by Coky Giedroyc

Written by Caitlin Moran

Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Adams, Paddy Considine

Streaming now on Amazon Prime 

About the writer

I first came across Caitlin Moran after seeing an article or on the front cover of a magazine in my dad’s kitchen. I was struck by her huge hair, outfit and her posture, she radiated energy that yelled, I mean business! So I looked her up on twitter, and she tweeted T H A T picture of Bruce Springsteen and I couldn’t help think, this woman has something to say and I am open to listening. 

Based on the book, How To Build A Girl 

How To Build A Girl is based on the 2014 novel of the same name written by Caitlin Moran. Based in 1990’s Wolverhampton and centres around 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, who has a head full of loft dreams and ambition, but not much.. is going her way right now. She is not considered one of the cool kids and is ready to alter her life. She lands a job in a music newspaper and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde complete with a new look, but her work colleagues manage to convince her that her sunny disposition needs to go, and she becomes the biggest bitch in music journalism. However, this new version is not sustainable, can she keep it up? or is she going to be able to reinvent herself into something more authentic and true to herself?

Spot on casting 

Beanie Feldstein is spot-on casting for Johanna. She has that wide eyes walking ball of sunshine, a bit awkward in her skin act down to a tee. She explores so much range in this role. Ditching the American Highschool halls we are used to seeing her in, to adopt a startling Wolverhampton accent. This is hilarious the first time it comes out of her mouth, but you soon forget that she is not English. But with all of her performances, she more than delivers. We feel her frustration, her angst, and cringe with her. You can see yourself in the decisions she makes, well, I was a teen growing up obsessed with live music and dreamt of working for Kerrang! Magazine sure could! 

A deep love of music

Something that How To Build A Girl really captured is that moment when you go to your first gig. The first gig that really means something. When Johanna pushes her way through the crowd to get closer to the stage, her eyes full of wonder and a little trepidation. I was right there with her. Except it was not the Manic Street Preachers but, My Chemical Romance in the Manchester Apollo, November 8th 2005 and I was 14 years old. I still remember every tear-streaked, sweat-soaked moment, singing along arm in arm with strangers who in that moment, are your closet friends. That is the beautiful thing about live music, it does not matter who you are at school or at work. In that crowd, on those sticky floors when the lights all dim, you are home. 

A story of growth and being true 

At its core, How To Build A Girl is a love letter to music and music journalism in the 90’s but it’s a true coming of age story about finding your own voice. Discovering who you are. Johanna royally messes things up and makes some awfully cringy moments and for a while, we think she’s lost herself. But, ultimately she finds a way to make it back to herself. She is not unchanged from her experiences, she is not exactly as she was before the sex and the drinking. But, she is a little wiser, but that sunshine outlook is back. No doubt she’ll make more cringey mistakes on the way, but isn’t that the whole point of growing up?


How To Build A Girl, streaming now on Amazon Prime or pick up a copy of the book here

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