Stargirl suffers from meandering pace and plot


Photo by Anneliese Esparza

Stargirl follows the love story of the exuberant Stargirl (Grace Van- derWaal) and the quiet Leo (Graham Verchere).

Anneliese Esparza, A&E Editor

With movie screens around the country going dark to help stop the spread of coronavirus, streaming services are the only way to catch a new movie. One such film is Disney+’s recently released coming-of-age drama called Stargirl, which is based on Jerry Spinelli’s 2007 novel of the same name.

Released March 13, the film chronicles the unlikely romance of two high schoolers who can’t be more different: Leo, a shy teen who just wants to stay unnoticed, and Stargirl, a ukulele-playing girl who loves standing out. With her unapologetic approach to life, the confident Stargirl brings out the best in Leo and the entire school.

While the film has an intriguing premise and it’s commendable that the film demonstrates the importance of being yourself, Stargirl, unfortunately, fails to live up to its full potential. One of its main problems was its unfocused plot. The surplus of subplots made the film confusing at times and detracted from the film’s overall arc.

Stargirl’s sluggish pacing was also problematic. There’s something to be said for films that take a step back and focus on characterization and scene more than action-packed storylines. Still, there is a difference between savoring a more laid-back film and counting down the minutes until the film is over, and Stargirl leans toward the latter category.

Despite its significant narrative flaws, Stargirl did feature strong acting performances from its leads. Graham Verchere was exceptional as the introspective and tender Leo. Despite the fact that the film is named after Stargirl, Leo is actually the main character and the subtle depth of Verchere’s performance was one of the bright spots of the film.

Stargirl is played by Grace VanderWaal in her acting debut. VanderWaal, who vaulted to fame when she won the 2016 season of America’s Got Talent, maybe better known as a singer-songwriter, but Stargirl proves that the 16-year-old is gifted with acting talent as well. VanderWaal’s performance ensured that her character would be multidimensional rather than just a quirky stereotype.

VanderWaal got a chance to sing and play her ukulele for the role as well. While she is undoubtedly an accomplished musician and brought passion and talent to the musical aspect of her performance, the songs themselves were subpar.

Aside from the instrumental soundtrack by Rob Simonsen, the music was primarily covers of other artists’ work, which detracted from the film’s musical originality. Moreover, many of the songs that were covered tended towards the kitschy, particularly the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School” that was sung twice in the film.

The best song in the film, “Today and Tomorrow,” was written by VanderWaal and plays during the credits. Featuring her signature slightly husky vocals and accompanied by just the gentle strums of the ukulele, the song is a melancholy ballad that beautifully summarizes the unique relationship between Stargirl and Leo.

Visually, Stargirl excelled. Set in Arizona, the film took time to delve into the magnificence of the state, with extended shots of the sweeping, gorgeous desert and several scenes of Stargirl and Leo exploring the wilderness.

While Stargirl could have been so much better, the film still has some good points. Narratively it may have floundered, but the acting performances of Verchere and VanderWaal at least ensure that you will become invested in the young lovers’ bond, and fans of VanderWaal will no doubt enjoy witnessing her success as an actor.

Even if Stargirl might not be winning an Academy Award anytime soon, you might want to give it a watch, if only because streaming platforms are the new movie theaters for the time being.