Lena Dunham’s heat, full of life adaptation of Karen Cushman’s 1994 historic novel, “Catherine, Called Birdy,” opens with a needle drop that references one other basic teen film. Misty Miller’s cowl of the ’90s Supergrass tune “Alright” performs as a younger Girl Catherine (referred to as Birdy), performed by Bella Ramsey of “Game of Thrones,” finds herself within the midst of a mud combat throughout a raucous cottage-raising in her medieval English village.
The music alternative (one of some nice ’90s covers that Miller performs all through the movie), is a high-five to Amy Heckerling’s 1995 movie, “Clueless,” and it inextricably hyperlinks the 2 movies collectively. One is an adaptation of a novel written within the ’90s, set in medieval instances, the opposite is predicated on a Regency-era Jane Austen novel and set within the ’90s, however each movies are a couple of virgin who can’t drive. The reference is a stunning method of reminding us, as “Catherine Called Birdy” incessantly does, that the problems plaguing girlhood are sometimes the identical, irrespective of the period.
Dunham has referred to as adapting the guide a longtime ardour challenge, and the care and love she has for the story and the characters — in each her writing and route — is palpable. Like “Clueless,” it’s a movie that feels easy, energetic and dynamic; it’s densely wordy, witty and clever, and it calls for to be rewatched as many instances as potential.
There’s a fluid naturalism and vitality to the movie that begins on the web page and flows by way of the motion of the digicam and the physicality of the actors. Dunham has nailed the language and tone of this piece. The writing is sharp, clear, with a definite voice, but it surely’s by no means overly express; it’s fashionable and relatable, but completely medieval. Anachronistic songs may soundtrack these occasions, however the trials, tribulations and artistic curses that Birdy desires up are all feudal England.
Birdy is navigating that difficult second when she’s not a woman, not but a girl. She stuffs her menstrual rags within the ground of the outhouse to cover them, as a result of getting her interval is a high-stakes affair. It means her father, the fey and humorous Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott) can marry her off to the best bidder to avoid wasting the manor’s funds. Birdy rebels towards the spouse life in defiance but in addition in concern. Her mom, Girl Aislinn (Billie Piper), struggles to supply wholesome infants.
“Catherine Called Birdy” is a chronicle of this distinct transitional time, as instructed by Birdy herself in a journal written for her brother Edward (Archie Renaux), a monk. As suitors come to name, Birdy makes an attempt to thwart the wedding plot as greatest she will with pranks and capers, counting on her greatest mates, Perkin (Michael Woolfitt) and Aelis (Isis Hainsworth), whereas feuding along with her brother Robert (Dean-Charles Chapman) and sometimes pining after her hunky Uncle George (Joe Alwyn).
However whereas the plot grapples with the aim and performance of marriage, the story of “Catherine Called Birdy” is one in all a deeply felt familial love and bond, expressed earnestly, and with good humor, by Ramsey, Piper, Chapman, Renaux and particularly Scott, who manages to make Rollo endearing in his entreaties to marry off his daughter. The casting is among the distinctive points of this movie: Lesley Sharp and Sophie Okonedo ship pleasant performances as two of the mentors who assist to form and information Birdy exterior of her household, whereas Paul Kaye from “Game of Thrones” makes for a wonderfully lascivious antagonist.
“Catherine Called Birdy” is Dunham’s greatest writing and directing work but; it’s a simple, breezy, emotional good time, and an immediate teen basic, identical to its predecessor, “Clueless.” Along with her two glorious 2022 movies, together with “Sharp Stick,” it’s clear that, even in a post-“Girls” world, Dunham won’t ever be finished inspecting the inside lives of ladies, in all their playful, pragmatic and poignant complexities.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune Information Service movie critic.
‘Catherine Called Birdy’
Rated: PG-13, for some suggestive materials and thematic components
Working time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Enjoying: Alamo Drafthouse, downtown Los Angeles; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Century Huntington Seaside; streaming Oct. 7 on Prime Video