Hello Dolly (Film Thoughts: How To Build A Girl)

How-to-Build-a-Girl-2020I love Beanie Feldstein that even if there are a lot of things that do not work in Coky Giedroyo’s ‘How To Build A Girl,’ I had a smile on my face while and after watching a film. The film is based on Caitlyn Moran’s memoir, about a teenage girl outside London. She is bookish and nerdy, but she has literary dreams (her room has pictures of her idols: Sylvia Plath, Sigmund Freud, Julie Andrews, among others) and when she submits a review of the ‘Annie’ Cast Recording to a British rock magazine, she catches their attention (they bet if she is real or a joke) Cut to her dyeing her hair red, and dressing like Stevie Nicks, writing under the name Dolly Wilde, and writing scathing reviews for the magazine. Thsi is a coming of age story, so of course, the success goes to her head and she learns life lessons. The story is a bit by-the-numbers, but Feldstein captures you with her warmth and charm. I really do feel like I am seeing an actor come into her own, and I feel Feldstein is a very intelligent actress who will only grow and be better.  While her British accent here sounds wonky at times, she captures the spirit of the character so you can forgive her for that. as a film, there really isn’t much that’s new here, but her performance makes the film worth seeing.

Smart Art (Film Thoughts: Booksmart)

booksmart_poster2People keep on saying that Olivia Wilde’s ‘Booksmart’ is like the female version of ‘Superbad’ but what if you never saw that movie? You can probably compare ‘Booksmart’ to a lot of movies – coming of age movies, friendship movies, buddy movies – but something about this film feels instantly fresh.

This is a story of two friends, Molly and Amy (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever)  who spent their high school years focusing on their academics. Now that they are graduating, they are finding maybe it’s not all worth it – some students int heir class partied and still got into good schools. So they want to compensate on this one last evening and party. But of course, there are roadblocks, and that’s where the fun begins – for them and for us, the audience.

Feldstein is tops. I know her, of course, for playing Minnie Fay in the Bette Midler revival of ‘Hello Dolly’ on Broadway but she stole hearts and scenes of course in ‘Ladybird.’  There is a scene towards the end of this film where she comes into some kind of realization, and she handles it so effectively – touching and honest. Dever matches her effectively, and I like the fact that her sexual orientation here is treated as ordinarily as any other detail in the movie.  They’re so good you can feel the depth of their friendship, making you feel s if you are their friends. You are on their side from the start.  My new prediction is that this film will catapult these two actresses to major star status.

And who knew Olivia Wilde had such great directorial skills? Even though four writers are credit with the screenplay, it feels cohesive. It took a while for me to ‘get’ the tone of the film, but once I did, I was in for the ride. The audience I was with devoured this film with great delight. I am betting this will be this summer’s surprise hit.