REVIEW: “HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” (2020) IFC Films

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Teenage girl Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) is a talented copywriter and not popular at all in her school. At home, Johanna has a “Wall of Gods” featuring photographs of her literary and historical heroes, including: Sylvia Plath (Lucy Punch), Elizabeth Taylor (Lily Allen), The Bronte sisters, Sigmund Freud (Michael Sheen), and Maria von Trapp (Gemma Arterton). Johanna speaks to these photos, and the fact that they answer her makes for some early fun. Johanna’s family hustles to stay just above poverty. Her dad, Pat Morrigan (Paddy Considine), still has dreams of rock stardom even though they have long passed, and now he breeds black market Border Collies. Her mother Angie (Sarah Solemani) suffers from post-partem depression after giving birth to unexpected and unprepared for twins.

 

After winning a local TV spot as student poet (in a quick turn as a show host is Chris O’Dowd) turns mortifying, Johanna’s brother Krissi (Laurie Kynaston) suggests she audition for a London magazine’s opening as music critic. She unironically writes up a piece on the soundtrack to Broadway’s “Annie”—which nabs her an interview, but only as a joke. Undeterred, she overwhelms the smarmy hipster editor (Frank Dillane) into an assignment and gets the full fledged opportunity to work for a rock magazine.  They however are less than impressed when she writes what is essentially a teenage love crush fluff piece on her first big interview piece about musician John Kite (Alfie Allen) and she gets the hatchet.

With that Johanna decides to sharpen her claws and it’s here where, low and behold, she does a complete reinvention of herself and evolves into persona ‘Dolly Wilde’. It’s no surprise that Dolly’s hatchet jobs become a cause-celebre’ hit. Celebrating the idea of “A nice girl gets nowhere, but a bitch… A bitch can make a comeback,” she gradually rises to become the most hated person in the industry including winning ‘Asshole of the Year’ journalism award.

Performance wise, sometimes it’s left to ponder who Considine’s representation is as he can be fantastic actor, but at times picks roles where he fails to bring any expectation to the character he’s playing. Feldstein, being American, has a somewhat thick British accent here and aside from a few struggles with said accent, commands your attention at all angles. There are times when even though you don’t really believe she is fully pulling the character off – you still root for her – follow her – even if her figure character becomes almost unbearable in between. Nevertheless, Johanna has her heart in the right place and so this comedy is quite a decent affair – and not only for girls. That’ll help you miss some of the weaker elements. Minor characters are allowed little opportunity to develop and the story feels boiled down to the most obvious plot points. There is nothing superficial about Johanna, but the film itself fails to dive far enough beneath the surface to do her justice.

While the film doesn’t work perfectly Director Coky Giedroyc does a perfectly acceptable job of making it a fine watch. I do hope to see Feldstein break out of this typecasting of roles and move towards ones that she can really sink her teeth into. All in all “How to Build a Girl” is more of a cutsey, fun watch than maybe the book by Caitlin Moran was meant to be as Moran’s audacious humor sometimes feels muted. There is also something quite fun as well in a film that decides it is up to every girl to build and/or rebuild herself in any images she so chooses.

Grade: C+
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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films

“HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” hits select drive-in theaters and VOD on Friday, May 8, 2020

REVIEW ~ ST. VINCENT (2014)

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By this time, if there is anyone who hasn’t figured out that Bill Murray is a comedic genius then not only do I feel bad that they’ve missed so many fantastically funny, great movies, but maybe they can find some of it then in this film.  While Murray does a bit of a mixed bag here of comedy and a dramatic turn also, no one can deliver spot on, deadpan sarcasm like Murray.  NO ONE!  His character, “Vincent” is the corrosively, sarcastically funny old man next door who gets softened up a bit by the fact that his new neighbors seem to need his help somewhat with of all things, babysitting of the young boy, “Oliver” (played wonderfully by Jaeden Lieberher).  Oliver and his mom “Maggie” (Melissa McCarthy) are a bit down on their luck as she is going thru a divorce and trying to work long hours and take care of her son.  Step in ne’er-do-well neighbor and all around screw-up Vincent to ‘save the day’ and what ensues is a story of what could be taken two ways.. You can look at it as Vincent teaching Oliver ‘real’ life and what goes on when they spend the day in at the races using Oliver’s lunch money to make a bet and a surprising win, Vincent, showing Oliver how to deliver an upper-cut to nose to defend himself against the school bullies, celebrating at the local bar, or the sweetness of visiting his Alzheimers ridden wife.  Of course it’s not what you’re supposed to do, but taken in the context of the movie can not only be looked at as somewhat of a learning process, but quite funny as well.  StVincent2

But this isn’t all fun and laughs as not only does McCarthy go for a more dramatic start here, giving us some relief from what seems to be her playing the same character her last few comedic movies, but she does it well enough and it’s nice to see her showing she’s got more range than we thought. Murray, is as always quite genius even when his role becomes more challenging in the dramatic sense when he suffers a stroke and goes through a tough recovery process all with the help of what is probably one of the worst characters not only in this movie, but just in general, a very not funny, awfully acted Russian prostitute “Daka” played terribly by (Naomi Watts).  Not only is her accent just awful and grating on your every last nerve, but her garish, harsh makeup really does not flatter here at all. While she is supposed to be somewhat endearing and maybe even a bit funny, the whole character is sadly what makes this movie only good instead of fantastic.  On the fantastic side, newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver is remarkable in not only his acting skills, but as a child holding his own alongside Murray.  Who knows, we might have another Nicholas Hoult on our hands here! Add in a couple of fun smaller supporting roles from the always wonderful for me, Chris O’Dowd as “Brother Geraghty” a priest in the Catholic school which Oliver attends even though they and most of the children attending aren’t even Catholic, in his always fun, comedic ways, he helps Oliver make his presentation of “St. Vincent”. Terence Howard as “Zucko” the bookie trying to collect Vincent’s gambling debts and Kimberly Quinn as “Nurse Ana” who cares for Vincent’s wife “Sandy” (Donna Mitchell) in the care facility and has a soft spot for him as he tries to do anything and everything to keep her from being moved to another facility.

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Though they do a good job of mixing the right amount of comedic with dramatic adding in just enough heartstrings pull. all in all this adds up to only being a good movie..not a great movie,

Grade: C  (average)

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Check out my review of ‘Cuban Fury’ #peggyatthemovies

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“Cha..cha..cha.. Cha..cha..cha”… Yep.. that’s what you will want to do after you see this fun little romp called “Cuban Fury.” and I enjoyed every minute of this lovely little screening I was able to attend on Wednesday..and as an added bonus I might add..the “Mad Men’ premiere just happened to be going on at the same time so I was able to catch some of my favs from that show on the Red Carpet.  But, back to the movie,  Let me just emphasize this movie is not what you think it probably is.  It’s a lovely little British comedy starring Rashida Jones (Julia), as the American boss, Nick Frost (Bruce), as the Salsa dancer, Chris O’Dowd (Drew), as his ‘friend’ or foe as you will see, and Olivia Coleman(Sam), has a great supporting as Bruce’s salsa partner/sister. Ian McShane (Ron) & Rory Kinnear (Gary) also have great supporting roles that will make you laugh..Best supporting character is by far is Kayvan Novak (Bejan) who has some of the funniest delivery of lines I’ve seen in awhile..You might not recognize all their names, but you will recognize all of them from the ton’s of movies/shows they’ve all been in combined.

Basically, Bruce and his sister were Salsa dancers as kids and won every contest far & wide, except for one.. And then Bruce quit because of what happened before that last contest, which of course involves bullies..  years later as he’s just living an ordinary life, Julia comes in as the new boss at his company and she’s lovely..But she seems interested in Drew rather than Bruce because he’s now overweight and a bit schlumpy. But he finds out her one thing she loves is Salsa.. And there you go.. won’t tell you the rest as yes, it’s as corny as end all..but somehow it works..It’s funny – in the British humour way..if you don’t like British humour..this might not be for you..it’s sweet, it’s got GREAT music in it and you can’t help but move in your seat to the rhythm of it all.  It’s not the best movie, but it’s entertaining and fun..and that is all I really ask for in a movie nowadays.  Grade: C+

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