It doesn’t water down her voice. Instead, the self-lacerating, self-consumed filmmaker seems liberated by the act of adaptation, as though tempering her distinctive creative impulses gives her rein to make a movie that’s tender and more broadly crowd-pleasing, while still very much her own.
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Catherine Called Birdy only shows that dropping Dunham’s sensibility down into the Middle Ages results in a viewpoint that is suffocatingly small and unenlightening.
Catherine Called Birdy is delightfully witty, irrelevant, and modern-minded while carefully dodging the self-satisfaction and smugness that those descriptors can conjure up.
Dunham has made a really attractive and cohesive film, merging her modern, punky sensibilities with the dirt-and-stone drear of the time period.
The real star of the show is Dunham, whose sharp dialogue and direction equips every actor with an acidic tongue and knowing gaze.
Catherine Called Birdy is so good, so raucous and wild and wise and witty, that it not only makes me eager to write in alliterative adjectives, but to reconsider my views on everything else she’s made in recent years. It’s wonderful.
Bolstered by a headstrong performance from Ramsey (who is best known as Lyanna Mormont from Game of Thrones), alongside a fantastic supporting cast, Catherine Called Birdy will be best enjoyed by a younger audience, though it’s still fun enough for viewers of all ages.
There is surely an audience for this kind of feel-good quote-un-quote feminism. But a book of such richness, with a heroine as complex as Birdy, deserves much more than this genial Renn Faire romp.
The movie wouldn’t have worked half as well had Dunham not discovered Ramsey, a “Game of Thrones” veteran soon to be seen in HBO’s “The Last of Us.” The young actor has a face one might find in a medieval Madonna portrait and a rowdy contemporary sensibility that makes her instantly relatable.
Neither a broad farce nor a scathing evisceration of sexism (both then and now), Catherine Called Birdy ends up trapped in a dissatisfying middle ground between those two extremes, a tonal decision that results in only mild laughs and somewhat engaging characters.