Four years ago, I wrote an article for this very website about books that defined my upbringing. Though that list may have changed since 2016, I still hold a special place in my heart for one of the inclusions: Caitlin Moran’s funny, filthy, antic-filled “How to Build a Girl”. Fast-forward four years and the trailer for the film adaptation, directed by Coky Giedroyc and starring Beanie Feldstein, has just been released.
The original, semi-autobiographical novel takes place in working-class Wolverhampton in the 1990s. We meet Johanna Morrigan, a kooky and clever teenager who is battling her sexual urges and talking in detail about masturbation (the book has been describes as an “age of coming” novel as opposed to a “coming of age” novel), her “mental” family and her desire to be a literary wizard. She becomes inspired by Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly (who becomes her journalist alter ego) and moves to London to pursue her dreams, navigating her way through seedy rock bars, sexist media types and inappropriate men in the process.
The trailer sees Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Booksmart) take on the role of Johanna, sporting a (so far, so okay) Midlands accent and dyed-red locks as the tale’s protagonist. Joining her as dickish singer John Kite is Game of Thrones‘ Alfie Allen, as well as Paddy Considine, Sarah Solemani, Emma Thompson, Chris O’Dowd and Sharon Horgan. Seeming to follow the same route as the novel, we’ll have to wait and see if the film is as audacious (the book contained some hysterical moments that will forever be seared into my memory).
How to Build a Girl received sparkling reviews after it premiered at TIFF last year, receiving four stars from both The Times and The Guardian and many critics particularly praising the shining light that is Beanie Feldstein. Just another rung on her ascending trajectory (next she’ll star in a Monica Lewinsky series and Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along), this palpably feels like a real moment for the 26-year-old actress.
How to Build a Girl is scheduled for release in the UK on July 3, 2020.
Words by Steph Green