"How to Build a Girl,"
directed by Coky Giedroyc
(R, 1 hour, 42 minutes)
"How to Build a Girl" is a remarkably generous film, comparable to Cameron Crowe's 2000 release "Almost Famous" in that it's about the making of a young writer. But while both movies focus on earnestness, Crowe's film is like a commercial power ballad, while "Girl" is a low-key acoustic melody.
Written by Caitlin Moran and based on her semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, "Girl" is set in the early 1990s. Awkward, unattractive and desperately unhappy teenager Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), growing up in a haphazard but loving family in England's West Midlands, responds to an ad placed by pop magazine Disc & Music Echo with an ecstatic review of the soundtrack from "Annie."
The sexist jerks from D&ME invite her to the office to laugh at her, but Johanna demands a second chance, which she uses to rename herself Dolly Wilde and wrangles an interview with pop star John Kite (Alfie Allen).
One success leads to another, and she gradually transforms herself into a flashy, snarky smarty-pants band-trasher who quickly draws an audience. Suddenly popular, she embraces her own stardom, although a comeuppance is surely on the way.
If "Girl" is sometimes messy and ultimately predictable, it's immensely entertaining. That's because it gives us a worthy underdog in need of support, one who is building herself in her own unique way.
With Frank Dillane, Paddy Considine, Jameela Jamil. (This film is also returning to local theaters this week.)
"Archive" (not rated, 1 hour, 49 minutes) Well-executed under-the-radar indie science fiction about a grieving robotics engineer (Theo James) who seeks to resurrect his dead wife via artificial intelligence with access to her memories and personality. A good-looking feature film writing/directing debut for Gavin Rothery, who worked on the visual effects for "Moon" (2009) and "Shaun of the Dead" (2004). With Stacy Martin, Rhona Mitra.
"The Wretched" (not rated, 1 hour, 35 minutes) Who's up for a creepy witch-from-hell horror story? A troubled and confrontational teenage boy, sent to spend a summer working at a tourist-town marina with his estranged father, finds himself at odds with the family renting the house next door. And no wonder; it turns out that the matriarch of that household is much more malevolent than he imagined. With John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai; written and directed by Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce.
"Valley of the Gods" (TV-14, 2 hours, 6 minutes) Navajo lore intersects with a reclusive trillionaire and his would-be biographer, creating a unique vision of America. With Josh Hartnett, John Malkovich, John Rhys-Davies, Keir Dullea; written and directed by Lech Majewski.
"The High Note" (PG-13, 1 hour, 53 minutes) This is a charming and music-filled drama, just right for summer, about a self-important superstar singer and her overworked personal assistant who struggles to pursue her dreams of becoming a music producer while satisfying the endless demands of her boss. With Tracee Ellis Ross (Diana Ross' daughter), Dakota Johnson, Ice Cube, Eddie Izzard, Bill Pullman; directed by Nisha Ganatra.
"Sonja: The White Swan" (PG-13, 1 hour, 53 minutes) A skillfully wrought bio-pic about flashy, fabulous, self-absorbed and totally focused Sonja Henie, one of the world's greatest athletes and the inventor of modern figure skating, who decides to go to Hollywood in 1936 to become a movie star at 20th Century Fox, which she does with consummate skill. But what goes up must come down. With Ine Marie Wilmann, Valene Kane, Eldar Skar, Anders Mordal, Anneke von der Lippe; directed by Anne Sewitsky.
"Inside the Rain" (TV-MA, 1 hour, 30 minutes) A jagged, intermittently compelling comedic drama in which a college film student, who considers his multiple personality disorders to be marks of genius, seeks to make a film intended to absolve him from involvement in an incident that threatens to get him expelled. Raising money for the project is problematic, though, as his manic behavior doesn't appeal much to would-be donors. Written, directed by, and starring Aaron Fisher, based on his life. With Rosie Perez, Eric Roberts, Ellen Toland.