‘Catherine Called Birdy’ overview: Lena Dunham’s prompt teen traditional

Lena Dunham’s heat, vigorous adaptation of Karen Cushman’s 1994 historic novel, “Catherine, Called Birdy,” opens with a needle drop that references one other traditional teen film. Misty Miller’s cowl of the ’90s Supergrass tune “Alright” performs as a younger Girl Catherine (known 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 track 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 relies on a Regency-era Jane Austen novel and set within the ’90s, however each movies are a few virgin who can’t drive. The reference is a beautiful manner of reminding us, as “Catherine Called Birdy” often does, that the problems plaguing girlhood are sometimes the identical, irrespective of the period.

Dunham has known as adapting the e-book a longtime ardour challenge, and the care and love she has for the story and the characters — in each her writing and path — 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 power to the movie that begins on the web page and flows via the motion of the digital camera 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, however it’s by no means overly express; it’s trendy and relatable, but totally medieval. Anachronistic songs would possibly soundtrack these occasions, however the trials, tribulations and inventive curses that Birdy desires up are all feudal England.

Birdy is navigating that tough second when she’s not a lady, not but a lady. 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 very best bidder to avoid wasting the manor’s funds. Birdy rebels in opposition to the spouse life in defiance but additionally 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 advised 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 finest she will be able to with pranks and capers, counting on her finest buddies, Perkin (Michael Woolfitt) and Aelis (Isis Hainsworth), whereas feuding together 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 every of 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 without doubt one of the distinctive features of this movie: Lesley Sharp and Sophie Okonedo ship pleasant performances as two of the mentors who assist to form and information Birdy outdoors of her household, whereas Paul Kaye from “Game of Thrones” makes for a wonderfully lascivious antagonist.

“Catherine Called Birdy” is Dunham’s finest writing and directing work but; it’s a straightforward, breezy, emotional good time, and an prompt teen traditional, similar to its predecessor, “Clueless.” Together 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 completed inspecting the interior 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 parts

Working time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Taking part in: Alamo Drafthouse, downtown Los Angeles; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Century Huntington Seashore; streaming Oct. 7 on Prime Video