Review: ‘Wolf’ (2021), starring George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Eileen Walsh and Paddy Considine

December 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

George MacKay in “Wolf” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“Wolf” (2021)

Directed by Nathalie Biancheri

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of England, the psychological drama “Wolf” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one biracial/black person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young man who thinks he’s a wolf is sent to a psychiatric institution for other young people who think that they are wild animals. 

Culture Audience: “Wolf” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in strange and badly bungled movies about people who have mental health issues.

Lily-Rose Depp in “Wolf” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

If you want to see an aimless movie where people who think they are wild animals are physically and emotionally abused in a psychiatric institution, then “Wolf” is the movie for you. These scenarios are repeated to the point of extreme irritation, with no character development and no insight into these patients’ personalities and how long they’ve thought of themselves as these wild creatures. In fact, after seeing “Wolf,” viewers will learn almost nothing about the patients in the movie, except how they react to torture methods that are inflicted upon them under the guise of “aversion therapy.” The instutition employees who cause this abuse are equally hollow.

Written and directed by Nathalie Biancheri, “Wolf” is a 99-minute movie that might have been better off as a short film. That’s because the movie’s skimpy plot is just enough for a short film, but most definitely not enough for a feature-length film. Unfortunately, the movie’s misleading trailer makes “Wolf” look like it’s going to be a suspenseful horror film. The only horror that viewers might experience is the horror of knowing that they’re wasting time watching a boring movie that’s trying very hard to be artsy, but it’s really just monotonous and unimaginative.

“Wolf” is the type of movie that is such a turnoff, some viewers probably won’t finish watching it until the very end. Those who watch the entire movie will find out from the underwhelming conclusion that “Wolf” was a confused and badly mishandled concept from the beginning. Although the cast members seem to be giving it their all in their performances, they don’t have much to work with when they have two-dimensional characters to portray.

Let’s start with one of the movie’s biggest flaws: It’s a shoddy portrayal of species dysphoria, the real-life psychiatric disorder where people think they are not human beings but actually belong to another species. The big romance in the film is between two patients who are supposed to have species dysphoria, but they act mostly like humans in a love affair, not the wild creatures that they’re supposed to think they are. This dismissal of their wild creature personas completely ruins the movie’s concept that these two people are supposed to truly believe that they’re wild creatures. There’s no consistency to this movie’s premise, which was flimsy from the start.

The protagonist of “Wolf” is a young man in his late 20s named Jacob (played by George MacKay), who thinks he’s a wolf. In the beginning of the movie, Jacob’s parents drop him off at the unnamed institution with sadness and desperate optimism that Jacob will be “cured” of his delusion that he’s a wolf who’s meant to roam free in a forest. Get used to seeing a shirtless Jacob in several dream-like forest scenes, where he crawls on all fours, sniffs objects around him, and howls with his face thrust up in the air.

The institution appears to be somewhere in the United Kingdom, since most of the patients have British accents, but a few of the patients and employees have American accents. Do not expect to learn anything about Jacob during this movie except that he thinks he’s a wolf. But he somehow forgets he’s a wolf when he sees a pretty young woman in her 20s crawling around outside in the garden area of the institution. Jacob looks at her like a man who is sexually attracted to a woman. Jacob soon finds out that this patient’s name is an American named Cecile (played by Lily-Rose Depp), and she thinks she’s a wildcat.

Since when are wolves sexually attracted to wildcats? And aren’t canines and felines supposed to be natural enemies, especially the wild ones in each species? That tells you all you need to know about how dumb this movie is because it keeps contradicting itself with how “delusional” these characters are supposed to be with their species dysphoria. When Jacob and Cecile begin their inevitable “courtship” (which isn’t spoiler information, because it’s in the movie’s trailer), they talk and act like humans whenever it suits them.

The movie wants to push this idea that Jacob and Cecile are having a “forbidden” odd-couple interspecies romance, but it’s hard to take that idea seriously when Cecile uses her very human hands to pleasure Jacob’s very human private parts while he’s locked up in a cage. Viewers are supposed to believe that wildcats’ natural sexual activities and instincts now magically include “hand jobs”—or is it “paw jobs”? Who knew that a wildcat’s paws can just automatically do the same things that fingers on a human hand can do? Don’t tell that the filmmakers of “Wolf” though, because they want the species dysphoria in this movie to just be just something that characters can put on and take off as easily as a pair of underwear.

Why is Jacob locked up in a cage? It’s his punishment for refusing to admit to the institution officials that he’s a human being, not a wolf. Apparently, this psychiatric institution thinks that the best way to get people to not feel like animals is to put them in an animal cage and treat them like a wild animal. Is it any wonder that their “therapy methods” are failing? It’s just more of this movie’s stupidity on display.

“Wolf” has mind-numbing repetition of Jacob and other institution patients being yelled at, physically abused, and threatened by the institution officials to start acting like humans, or else they’ll get more abuse. The institution also resembles a prison in how there are high fences around the property, and the patients are under supervised lockdown at night. Because “Wolf” is a low-budget film that mainly takes place in or near one building, there’s a relatively small number of people in the cast.

As such, there are really only a few people who are shown to be in charge of the abuse in this hell hole that’s passing itself off as a psychiatric care facility. The most sadistic employee is only identified as the Zookeeper (played by Paddy Considine), a snarling supervisor who sometimes imitates a wild animal too, in order to scare the patients. Considine’s performance is very over-the-top, almost to the point of being unintentionally campy.

If patients really get out of line, they’re sent to the office of the institution’s general manager, Dr. Sullivan, who’s briefly shown in the movie. Dr. Sullivan gives this stern warning to one of the patients who ends up in his office: “You won’t get anywhere by fighting us!” Dr. Sullivan is barely in the movie, so there’s no sense of how long he’s been in charge and which other bureacrats from the institution are making the decisions in how this barbaric place operates.

There’s an unnamed American female staffer (played by Eileen Walsh), who is not as cruel as the Zookeeper, but she’s still abusive and controlling. During the course of the movie, it’s revealed that this female staffer has been some kind of guardian to Cecile, whose parents are either dead or they want nothing to do with her. Cecile’s role in the institution is made even more unclear when she is shown doing employee duties such as janitorial work or work in the kitchen. Later in the story, it’s shown that she has more privileges than the other patients.

Don’t expect any clear answers to questions about Cecile’s background. Just like all the other characters in this movie, her backstory is non-existent, which is one of the main reasons why all of the characters’ personalities are such huge voids. When Jacob asks Cecile how long she’s been at the institution, she replies, “Too long.” When they first see each other, they crawl on all fours, circle each other, and sniff each other like animals. But it’s all just a moronic charade, because during most of the “courtship” between Jacob and Cecile, they definitely act like humans.

In fact, what makes “Wolf” almost laughable is how so much of it looks like an actors’ workshop where people were told to rehearse acting like animals. This phoniness dilutes any terror that the movie might have intended. The “group therapy” sessions consists of people squawking and grunting in a room to mimic the sounds of whatever animal they think they are. Most of the patients are in their late teens or 20s. They include:

  • Rufus (played by Fionn O’Shea), who thinks he’s a feral German Shepherd.
  • Jeremy (played by Darragh Shannon), who thinks he’s a squirrel.
  • Ola (played by Amy Macken), who thinks she’s a spider.
  • An unnamed young woman (played by Elsa Fionuir), who thinks she’s a horse.
  • Annalisa (played by Karise Yansen), who thinks she’s a panda.
  • Judith (played by Lola Petticrew), who thinks she’s a parrot.
  • Ivan (played by Senan Jennings), who thinks he’s a duck.

For reasons that aren’t explained, Ivan is the only patient who is an underage child. He’s about 6 or 7 years old, so any cruelty to him is supposed to be more disturbing than what’s inflicted on the older patients. Rufus is the patient who comes the closest to being on the road to “recovery,” so he’s used as an example of being a “model patient.” All that means is that Rufus is predictably going to be used as a snitch if any of the other patients rebel.

The Zookeeper is the one who leads the “aversion therapy” that takes place outdoors in the nearby woods. Some of this “therapy” includes forcing the patients to simulate human hunting of animals. It’s supposed to tap into their human side, as Annalisa explains to newcomer Jacob. When the patients are outdoors, they are often pulled around on leashes or chains.

Another tactic is to try to get the patients to feel pain or nausea for doing things just like their wild animal counterparts. For example, Jeremy is ordered to climb up a tree like a real squirrel would. Some of the Jeremy’s fingernails break off in this futile effort, but he’s still forced to try to climb the tree, even when his fingers start bleeding. When Jeremy stops because of the pain, the Zookeeper exclaims triumphantly: “You see? You’re not really a rodent!”

It should come as no surprise that there are scenes of people eating food that humans aren’t supposed to eat. The “therapy” methods are so counter-productive and ridiculous, viewers already know that this institution doesn’t care about “curing” its patients, because how else would it stay in business if everyone was “cured” and never came back? And because the movie tells so little about the patients, there’s hardly anyone to root for in this clumsily constructed story.

After a patient “graduates” from the institution, there’s a “severance ceremony,” where the patient burns a photo of the animal that they previously identified as. But it all proves to be a very superficial exercise because the “relapse” rate is high. And there are scenes showing that many of the patients say what the officials want to hear, but then go back to their animal ways when none of the officials is looking.

There are hints that people outside the institution know what a terrible place it is. Rufus’ mother (played by Mary Lou McCarthy) storms into the institution one day and insists on taking him out of there when she hears about the abuse. However, the Zookeeper is able to manipulate her into thinking that the institution is her only chance of “curing” Rufus, and she ends up letting Rufus stay there.

In another scene, an unidentified man wearing a pig’s mask throws a rock through a closed window of the institution building while yelling, “Animal freaks!,” and then running away before he can be caught. The people inside the building look on in shock, but then they continue to do what they were doing, as if nothing happened. This vandalism is the only indication that people in the community have fear and loathing of this institution. The institution’s effect on the community could have been an intriguing subplot if explored in a clever way. However, this institutiton seems to be very good at hiding its secrets, because no investigation by law enforcement or social services is ever conducted during this movie.

One of the worst things about “Wolf” is that it’s so heavy-handed with its point that humans can be the worst animals of all. But in sloppily making this point (there are too many plot holes and missing details), Biancheri and the other “Wolf” filmmakers didn’t give much humanity or even a basic personal story to any of the movie’s main characters. And that leaves this movie called “Wolf” as the equivalent of a wild creature that wants to take a savage bite out of society, but in the end is just toothless.

Focus Features released “Wolf” in select U.S. cinemas on December 3, 2021.

Review: ‘How to Build a Girl,’ starring Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Allen, Paddy Considine, Chris O’Dowd and Emma Thompson

May 11, 2020

by Carla Hay

Beanie Feldstein in “How to Build a Girl” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“How to Build a Girl”

Directed by Coky Giedroyc 

Culture Representation: Taking place in early 1990s England (and briefly in Dublin), the comedy film “How to Build a Girl” has a predominantly white cast (with some representation of black people and Indian people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 16-year-old girl who’s a misfit in school reinvents herself as a hotshot music journalist and becomes the type of bully she used to hate.

Culture Audience: “How to Build a Girl” will appeal mostly to people who like coming-of-age films about teenagers or movies about entertainment journalism, but viewers should not expect this film to have a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a beginner journalist.

Alfie Allen and Beanie Feldstein in “How to Build a Girl” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“How to Build a Girl” tries very hard to be a charming, coming-of-age comedy with a heavy dose of nostalgia (in ways that writer/director Cameron Crowe’s 2000 Oscar-winning dramedy “Almost Famous” did so well), but “How to Build a Girl” suffers from presenting too many unrealistic fantasies about magazine journalism, in order to serve the movie’s cutesy plot. The results are mixed.

Beanie Feldstein gives a winning performance as the main character, and there’s solid direction from Coky Giedroyc in this movie that ultimately has a feel-good feminist message. But that message is cheapened by Caitlin Moran’s screenplay, which overloads the story with an abundance of “too good to be true” moments that gloss over the harsh realities of showbiz and journalism.

Moran adapted the “How to Build a Girl” screenplay from her 2014 semi-autobiographical novel of the same title, which was based on Moran’s real-life experiences of being a teenage journalist in the early 1990s for the now-defunct British music magazine Melody Maker. Moran also had some ’90s fame in her native Great Britain, as the host of the short-lived Channel 4 music show “Naked City.” She went on to write for several publications and became the author of multiple books.

In the “How to Build a Girl” movie, Feldstein plays Johanna Morrigan, a moody and bookish 16-year-old who comes from a working-class family in Wolverhampton, England. Johanna is the oldest of five children, and all of her siblings are brothers, including newborn twins. Her father Pat (played by Paddy Considine) is a frustrated drummer/wannabe rock star who’s been waiting for his “big break” for decades. Her disheveled mother Angie (played by Sarah Solemani) is overwhelmed with taking care of a large family and suffers from post-partum depression.

Angie is a homemaker and Pat can’t keep a steady job, so the family mainly lives off of government assistance and whatever questionable “get rich quick” schemes cooked up by Pat. (At one point in the movie, Pat gets busted for fraudulently claiming disability benefits, while he breeds Border Collies for extra money.) At school, Johanna is an outcast who has no friends. Her closest companions are her dog Bianca and her gay teenage brother Krissi (played by Laurie Kynaston), who confides in Johanna about his boy crushes and tentative first steps in dating.

Johanna has an eclectic myriad of historical figures whom she admires and whose pictures she keeps plastered on her wall. They include Sigmund Freud; Elizabeth Taylor; Karl Marx; Sylvia Plath; Donna Summer; Cleopatra; the fictional Jo March from “Little Women”; Maria von Trapp of “The Sound of Music” fame; and writer sisters Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte. Johanna has a vivid imagination, so one of the memorable aspects of the film is that it sometimes brings these pictures to life, as they speak to Johanna and give her advice. Several well-known entertainers have cameos with these roles, such as Michael Sheen as Freud, pop star Lily Allen as Taylor, Jameela Jamil as Cleopatra, Gemma Arterton as von Trapp and Lucy Punch as Plath.

In fact, the most whimsical moments of “How to Build a Girl” come from Johanna’s numerous fantasies that are depicted on screen of what’s going on inside her head. For the most part, they work well in boosting the comedy level when the movie tackles some dark subjects, such as Johanna’s anxiety and depression that lead to suicidal thoughts. What doesn’t work well in the movie is the unbelievable way that she skyrockets from being an unknown teenage student to being a famous writer at a major rock magazine without any experience or knowledge of rock music.

Johanna has dreams of being a writer, but she hasn’t quite figured out what type of writer she wants to be. She enters a poetry contest with a poem titled “My Best Friend,” about her beloved dog Bianca. To her surprise, she ends up winning the contest. So, Johanna is invited to recite the poem on a local news/talk show called “Today in the Midlands,” hosted by a slick TV personality type named Alan “Wilko” Wilkinson (played by Chris O’Dowd, in a cameo).

Unfortunately, Johanna is extremely nervous when she gets to the TV studio, so she ends up embarrassing herself by being overly touchy-feely with the host and rambling on about how she and Bianca are a lot like the famous cartoon characters Shaggy and Scooby Doo. Needless to say, Wilko can’t get her off the air fast enough.

Back at school, Johanna gets the expected teasing and bullying from her classmates for her disastrous TV appearance. She sinks even further into her emotional shell and starts having thoughts about killing herself. (Johanna’s imaginary friends on her wall try to cheer her up, but notoriously depressive poet Plath whispers that she can give Johanna some tips on suicide.)

Meanwhile, Johanna’s family falls further into a financial hole, as the family’s TV (which is the center of their household’s social activities) gets repossessed. But wouldn’t you know, here comes another contest. This time, it’s from the London-based rock music magazine Disc & Music Echo (D&ME), which is having a Young Gunslinger competition for aspiring young writers. The winner will get to write for the magazine on a part-time basis.

Johanna knows almost nothing about rock music (even though her dad is a rock musician, albeit an unsuccessful one), but she enters the contest anyway. She writes a sincere essay praising one of her favorite songs: “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.” And in yet another unrealistic plot point, she gets a call that she’s won that contest too.

So off she goes to London to D&ME headquarters, with excited dreams of becoming a glamorous music journalist. (D&ME is the movie’s obvious parody of real-life British music magazine NME.) However, Johanna gets a rude awakening when she discovers that the congratulatory call that she received was just a cruel prank from the sexist managing editor Derby (played by Ziggy Heath), who leads an all-male team of writers and editors.

Derby and his D&ME co-workers are skeptical that someone of the female gender can be taken seriously as a music journalist. One of the writers on the staff is the lecherous Tony Rich (played by Frank Dillane), who eyes Johanna in a way that makes it obvious that he sees her as “fresh meat.” (The age of consent in the United Kingdom is 16.)

When Johanna finds out that the D&ME editors think her writing submission was a joke and that they had no intention of hiring her, she refuses to leave. She begs, pleads and talks her way into being hired on the spot for an intern-type of position. It’s one of many unrealistic things that happen in the movie.

And she immediately gets a plum assignment: a concert review of Manic Street Preachers, who were one of the hottest bands in England at the time. So off Johanna goes to the club in Birmingham to see the band play. She’s accompanied by her father Pat, since Johanna doesn’t have her driver’s license. It’s Johanna’s first time at a rock concert, and she’s blown away by the experience.

Meanwhile, her father thinks that he can use Johanna’s new position at D&ME to pass on a demo tape to her to hopefully get it reviewed in the magazine. He even starts to sit in as a drummer for a young local band called the Strange Cases that come over to the Morrigan house to rehearse. As Pat Morrigan tells Johanna, he was raised to believe that the three best ways to get rich are by being a “boxer, a footballer or a pop star.”

Johanna doesn’t think her real name is cool enough for the magazine, so she comes up with the alias Dolly Wilde for her articles. She also changes her image, by ditching her mousy brown hair and dyeing it scarlet red. Johanna also stops wearing schoolgirl clothes and starts wearing outfits that look like shopping-mall versions of Victorian Goth, complete with black top hats and fishnet stockings.

When she hands in the concert review, which naturally gushes about the band in the review, Derby tells her that it sounds like a review written by a teenage girl. She’s crushed by the criticism because she was expecting to get a bigger assignment. However, Derby refuses because he thinks she’s an annoying girl who doesn’t know anything about the music she’s supposed to cover.

And then Derby does something very creepy in full view of several staffers: He tells Johanna to sit on his lap. Even though it’s obvious sexual harassment, Johanna uses it to her advantage, by playfully moving heavily around his lap and putting Derby in a headlock until a red-faced Darby relents and gives her another assignment, in yet another very unrealistic movie moment. This time, Johanna gets to fly to Dublin to do an interview with a British rock star on the rise named John Kite (played by Alfie Allen), even though she has absolutely no experience doing interviews and doesn’t know anything about John’s music.

Although “How to Build a Girl” tries to have a teachable moment with the sexual-harassment scene, it’s almost offensive how the movie brushes it aside with a slapstick response that pokes fun at the body size of the female target of the harassment. Would that scene have been done that way if Feldstein were a thin actress? Probably not, because the gimmick of the scene was that she was “too big” for Derby’s lap, and therefore caused him physical pain when she moved around on his lap. And he gave Johanna the assignment not because he thought she deserved it but because he just wanted her to get off of his lap and go away.

Johanna is woefully unprepared for the interview (how unprofessional), and she admits to John that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s lucky that John is such a gentleman that not only does he give her a good interview, but he also shows her around Dublin. At the concert, she gets a backstage pass, so she watches the show from the side of the stage. Predictably, she’s transfixed and star-struck.

And when Johanna gets too tipsy from alcohol, John takes her back to his hotel room and lets her sleep on his bed, while he sleeps in the bathtub. And not once does he sexually harass her or try to take advantage of this obviously unworldly and gullible teenager. By the end of the trip, Johanna thinks she’s “in love” with John.

“How to Build a Girl” has the same problem that the 2019 comedy “Late Night” (starring Mindy Kaling) had in portraying a spunky heroine who’s chosen as the “token” female writer/co-worker in a male-dominated media job, even though she has no experience and is clueless about what it takes to do the job. Both movies make the mistake of having the main character fall into a bunch of “dumb luck” situations that lead to rapid career advancements that an inexperienced beginner would never get in real life, unless they have inside connections.

The heroines in both movies have neither experience nor inside connections, since each story relies on the premise that these newcomers are naïve outsiders when they get their dream jobs in showbiz. They were hired as “tokens” to be pitied or ridiculed, not to be respected. It panders to the worst negative stereotypes about affirmative action—that “token” people really aren’t qualified, and a “token” is getting a spot that should’ve gone to someone who is qualified. Affirmative action, when done right, is supposed to give qualified people a chance. (Coincidentally, both movies have Emma Thompson playing a boss, although her role in “How to Build a Girl” is essentially a cameo.)

It’s a disservice to feminism to portray these female protagonists as very ignorant, unqualified tokens who easily get a dream job that they didn’t work hard to get. It’s why “Late Night,” in its blatant and cynical pandering to forced diversity, flopped with audiences. And it’s why “How to Build a Girl” won’t win over a large audience either. Having a “cute” personality without working hard doesn’t entitle someone to great opportunities, even if you try to cloak it in a “feminist” message.

People in the real world don’t like it when filmmakers have a smug attitude that a female lead character with a plucky personality should be enough for audiences to root for that character. Audiences want a character who also has substance, starting with the character showing genuine appreciation for all the dumb luck that comes her way when she has her unrealistic, quick career ascension. It’s probably why “How to Build a Girl,” just like “Late Night,” isn’t going to find a wide audience, or even a cult audience that will enthusiastically recommend this movie to other people.

“How to Build a Girl” takes the protagonist’s dumb luck to new levels of “only in a movie” stupidity. While she’s still working part-time for the magazine, Johanna makes enough money to support her family, and she becomes very arrogant about it. This movie apparently doesn’t want the audience to know the reality that no magazine in the Western world pays a part-time beginner enough money to support a family of seven.

Johanna becoming the family’s breadwinner is an extreme plot development that’s unnecessary and undermines this movie’s potential to make this story relatable to a lot of people. It’s an insult to the audience’s intelligence for the movie to try to make people believe that an underage teenager who’s basically on the level of a magazine intern can suddenly support a large family with what everyone knows would be a very low salary in real life. A better-written screenplay would’ve kept it more realistic, by having Johanna make enough money to have more disposable income for just herself, not her entire family.

Johanna gets a minor setback when she’s about to be fired for writing articles that fawn too much over the artists. Derby and the other editors think she’s too immature and “girly” for the job. Tony is somewhat willing to defend Johanna, but it’s only because he has sleazy ulterior motives. He privately tells Derby, “There’s never been an organization that wasn’t improved from hiring jailbait.”

Once again, in an unrealistic way, Derby changes his mind about getting rid of Johanna, after she alters her Dolly Wilde persona to become a cruelly derogatory critic who uses over-the-top insults to get attention. Johanna’s change in writing style from star-struck fangirl to angry cynic was the result of a conversation that Johanna had with her smarmy co-worker Tony. “In order to get ahead, you have to get a hate,” Johanna says in an “a-ha” moment. In a voiceover, Johanna says, “Nice girls get nowhere, but a bitch can make a comeback.”

And in yet another unrealistic aspect of the story, Johanna actually becomes famous. She gets fan mail and is recognized in public by adoring admirers, all because of her writing in the magazine. Keep in mind, the movie takes place years before social media existed. Music journalists in the ’90s didn’t get the level of attention that Johanna gets in this movie, unless the journalists were on TV a lot. And in the movie, Johanna is a print journalist only, not a TV personality.

The rest of the movie shows what happens after Johanna’s “fame” goes to her head and she becomes everything she used to hate about people who bullied her. “How to Build a Girl” also explores Johanna’s sexual liberation (she loses her virginity and has various sex partners), and how it affects her attitude about herself and other people. The movie shows how she handles the issue of female journalists getting sexually involved with people they interview or co-workers, and how those choices can affect the reputation of a woman differently than a man who makes the same choices.

Issues about social classes are also addressed, since most of Johanna’s co-workers at the magazine are privileged young men who went to prestigious universities, while Johanna comes from a very different background. Although Johanna tries her best to fit in with the guys, there are a few scenes in the movie that effectively show how her elitist co-workers really feel about the gender/social barriers that keep someone like Johanna from truly being a part of their clique. Johanna also faces some ethical dilemmas that demonstrate how much she’s willing to “sell her soul” to impress her co-workers.

Feldstein (who’s an American) does an admirable but not outstanding job in portraying the Wolverhampton accent and the transformative character arc that Johanna goes through in the story. However, it’s time for Feldstein to move on to a better variety of roles, because she’s in danger of being typecast as the “awkward misfit.” So far, most audiences know her for playing awkward, misfit teens in films such as “Lady Bird,” “Booksmart” and “How to Build a Girl.”

And for a movie about music journalism, it’s a huge letdown that the soundtrack to “How to Build a Girl” is very forgettable. There isn’t one single scene in the movie that will make people remember a particular song, so don’t expect this movie’s soundtrack to be an award-winning hit, like the Grammy-winning “Almost Famous” soundtrack.

It’s also disappointing that Moran couldn’t use her real-life experiences as a music journalist to write a more realistic screenplay. This movie was clearly intended for adults (based on the adult language and sex in the film), but “How to Build a Girl” is also like a children’s movie in the way that it removes a lot of showbiz realities and replaces them with wide-eyed, unrealistic fantasies about how the business works. You can’t really have it both ways, because the end result is a movie with an uneven tone. “How to Build a Girl” wants to be edgy, but it’s as edgy as a melted popsicle.

IFC Films released “How to Build a Girl” on digital and VOD on May 8, 2020. The film’s U.K. release is on July 20, 2020.

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