I hate looking back and cherry-picking the worst films I see at a specific film festival. The goal of going to an event of such grand caliber, is to celebrate the art of cinema, not disregard it. However, if there’s one film at the Toronto International Film Festival that raised eyebrows, and expressed a certain amount of concern from my part; it was easily Coky Giedroyc’s How to Build a Girl. Speaking directly from the exact demographic that How to Build a Girl was aimed for, I can officially now preach my disgust, that teenagers are the absolute worst! As a teen myself, there’s nothing fun or amusing about watching a bunch of testosterone fueled twats, roam the streets of their supposedly “small town”, as they continuously nag about the lack of opportunities and liberties in their enclosed community. It’s annoying and the cinematic trend needs to die.
To add on, there’s also nothing entertaining about watching a series of events from the perspective of a privileged individual; especially when the lead protagonist and the filmmakers behind the camera have nothing important to say with the film’s advocating message. In retrospect, the majority of the film is heavily reliant on it’s dreadful protagonist; a heroine who’s likable yet slightly annoying at first, who unfortunately turns into a figure of mass havoc and asshole-like tomfoolery. Based on the very real teen years of music critic Johanna Morrigan, it’s hard to feel any sort of connection with her character, when the majority of the time, she continuously strives to insult and slander her peers. This is the sort of teenage representation that really bothers me. With something like Booksmart, another film which was released this year that also happened to star the very talented Beanie Feldstein, the female protagonists in Wilde’s vision are portrayed as strong, independent individuals; not living and breathing dorkish cliches.
When the film industry continuously attempts to normalize the idea of extreme misbehavior from today’s youth, exclusively when the character’s actions are played for comedic effect; I can’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable with the it’s clumsy depiction(s). It’s a sign of lazy-direction, and awful priority standards. What makes matters even worse, it that there’s no point in How to Build a Girl (with the exception of some fun cameos from Chris O’Dowd and Emma Thompson) that feels genuine or entertaining. It’s a lousy, convoluted nostalgia-driven repertoire circle-jerk, which also happens to contain some border-line offensive British accents.
How to Build a Girl takes all the insufferable moments of the coming of age sub-genre; and whisks them up into a portal of nauseating and dangerous character development. Nothing kills a vibe more, when a film’s self-absorbed protagonist consistently attacks the viewer with their poisonous personality. How To Build A Girl is not a comedy. It’s a full on horror film on a terrifying growing ego.
How to Build a Girl screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution