TUCSON, Ariz. — After mastering the modern coming-of-age romantic comedy, Lena Dunham plows new pastures in the period piece "Catherine Called Birdy."
The film, which debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, mixes the spirited authenticity of Dunham's movies and TV series, which include "Tiny Furniture" and "Girls," with a Jane Austen touch.
Set in 1290, the film follows Birdy (Bella Ramsey) — known officially as Lady Catherine — who frolics around Stonebridge Manor, a decaying vestige of the past.
Birdy's father, Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott), aims to groom Birdy to become a bargaining chip, marrying her off to boost the family's wealth and social status.
Birdy, though, has other ideas. Engaged in a power struggle with the patriarchy, she is set on making her own rules and defying convention.
As a protofeminist surrogate for Dunham, Birdy is a deep, well-developed character played with aplomb by Ramsey.
The story falls on the predictable side, but the comedy and performances manage to make the film feel fresh and vital.
Drawing parallels to today's gender-themed culture wars — such as the battle over equal pay in women's soccer and abortion rights restrictions — "Catherine Called Birdy" makes a sly, subtle commentary on today's conditions by drawing from the past.
The presentation, plot development, and one-liners may come off as a little too cute and convenient, but that is part of Dunham's charm as a storyteller.
Sumptuous and spirited, "Catherine Called Birdy" shows off Dunham's range and breadth as a filmmaker and points to more significant things to come for one of the voices of her generation.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.