“Stargirl” stars Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere, Giancarlo Esposito, Karan Brar, Darby Stanchfield, and Maximiliano Hernandez. Released on Disney+ on March 13, 2020, the film is about a shy teen who befriends a unique free-spirited young woman.
The film is directed by Julia Hart, who also directed “Miss Stevens” and “Fast Color”, and it is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Jerry Spinelli. High school is one of the big steps of everyday life. It is full of teenage drama, tense emotions, and people judging others based on their differences. Sounds like something that Disney would put out on its streaming service instead of a television series based on “Love, Simon”. Since I’m stuck inside the house for a while due to a Coronavirus and almost all of the movies are getting delayed, I had to resort to plan B, which is to review some of the films that are available to stream at the comfort of my own home. It may not be easy for me to do, but it’s the only solution I have to keep my blog alive. Last month, I reviewed an original film from Disney+ known as “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made”, and since I did all right talking about it, I decided to continue reviewing more films from the recent streaming service, starting with this peculiar film that coincidentally shares the same title as the DC Comics superhero. Even though I haven’t read the book myself or seen any of its trailers, I remained curious about it because of its relatable concept and the fact that it’s aiming towards families, which is good because kids need to learn this type of stuff. Question is, is it good enough for me to recommend it to its target audience?
Described as a musical drama, the story follows Leo Borlock (Verchere), a teen who moves to Arizona with his mother (Stanchfield) after his father passed away. During his year in high school, he encounters a free-spirited girl named Stargirl Caraway (VanderWaal) who quickly made a first impression on Leo and the entire school due to her personality. Together, they face the difficult challenges of high school while maintaining their relationship. If you’re wondering why I am calling it a musical drama, it’s because the film has several scenes of the two main characters singing songs from popular artists like The Beach Boys, the Go-Go’s, and the Cars, including VanderWaal, who I will talk about later on. If there’s one thing that I can appreciate while watching this film, it’s the message. We’re living in a world where people judge others based on their differences or their actions, especially the ones in high school, and they want them to act “normal", which is clearly impossible. This is one of the films that showcase the fact that being different is okay. If people can love themselves for who they really are, then the others will follow suit. I think this is a really good message to share with the kids who are sharing the same problem. But what about the film itself? Honestly, it’s not a perfect representation of the scenario, but its heart was in the right place. “Stargirl” followed a similar path that we’ve seen in the other coming-of-age films that came before it, and it didn’t quite hit all of the emotional notes that it was going for. Plus, its uneven pacing might become a nuisance to the younger viewers despite the film’s PG rating. However, those problematic flaws failed to distract me from Julia Hart’s subtle sense of direction and the film's kind-hearted nature. Singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal made her acting debut in this film as the title character. For those who don’t know, she’s a young artist who sings original songs and covers and often accompanies herself on her trusted ukulele. The film marked the first time I experienced her myself, and I got to say, she’s the only reason why I liked this film. Not only was she superbly talented as a singer/ukulele player, but she also had the right amount of spunk and charisma in her performance to make her character shine as bright as a star. Graham Verchere was also good in his role as Leo, the teen who befriends Stargirl. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance, but he did what he could to make himself likable onscreen.
Overall, “Stargirl” doesn’t transcend beyond its genre, but it was able to work its way around its formula, resulting in an inspiring feel-good drama that represents appreciating one’s own differences. VanderWaal’s acting debut was impressive, Julia Hart’s direction was respectable in terms of its concept, and its heartwarming nature was hard to ignore. This is another film that should definitely serve as a reminder to respect others despite their differences so that Earth can be a perfect place to live in. It’s a decent watch for those who are into this type of genre, especially families.