Lena Dunham is on a hot streak, releasing two feature films this year, after not directing one since 2010’s Tiny Furniture. First, it was Sharp Stick, which had a muted rollout a couple weeks ago and has not made a dent anywhere except the corner of Tumblr devoted to Jon Bernthal GIFs (shout out to the horny Tumblrites!). Next up is Catherine, Called Birdy, an adaptation of Karen Cushman’s Newbery award-winning young adult book about a thirteenth-century teenager coming to grips with the limited opportunities offered to her as a woman, while also coming of age. Dunham adapted the screenplay and directs the film, and will appear in the film as well, though she’s not in the trailer.
The trailer gives me The Little Hours vibes, if The Little Hours was a coming-of-age tale and not an R-rated sex comedy. It’s the combination of the medieval setting and modern language, but also the story centered on a young woman trying to find her place in a restrictive society that doesn’t value her. Birdy and Hours might make for an interesting double billing, assuming Birdy isn’t awful. It doesn’t look awful, it looks rather cute, with Bella Ramsey starring as Lady Catherine, known as “Birdy” because of her pet pigeons. Andrew Scott plays her father, who wants to use her marriage for social gain, and Billie Piper plays her mother, who wants her to be an ideal lady. Her favorite relatives are her monk brother, Edward, and her star-crossed uncle, George. Joe Alwyn, who has proven to be quite interesting in historical roles, plays George.
I remember reading this book as a kid and liking it well enough. I’m interested to see Dunham’s take on YA, though I have often thought, and this trailer isn’t changing my mind, that Dunham is overrated as a director. Birdy is produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who also produced Autumn de Wilde’s fantastic adaptation Emma. Thinking of de Wilde’s Emma. makes me wonder what she would make of Catherine, Called Birdy, and that’s my issue with Dunham’s directing. I usually end up thinking about how someone else could have done it better. Maybe this time, Bella Ramsey’s charm will be enough to distract me from Dunham’s directorial shortcomings.