Review: Stargirl

Stargirl (2020)

Director: Julia Hart

Writers: Kristin Hahn, Julia Hart, and Jordon Horowitz

Starring: Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere, Giancarlo Esposito, and Karan Brar

Plot: A quirky girl starts going to a boy’s school, instantly bringing a spark to him and the entire town.

Review: I read Stargirl about sixteen years ago when I was in middle school. I remember almost nothing about it except that I was really drawn to the titular character. I liked her a lot. I liked how she wasn’t afraid to be herself and that she brought this infectious joy to people. When I heard that Disney+ was going to make a movie version, my first thought was “why now?”. This is an older book. I don’t even know if kids still read it. Why did they decide now was a good time to dust it off the shelf? Well, after seeing it. I think I have my answer: Grace VanderWaal.

Stargirl should be a starmaking role for VanderWaal. (No pun intended.) She was a revelation in this movie. It would’ve been so easy to just go down the manic pixie dream girl path, but I think she brings a lot more to the role than that. You can tell that she’s a little shy about the whole thing. She just wanted to make friends. The concept that she’s magic is a mystery to her. But, as an audience member, you’re never confused as to why she’d get that status. She is a magnetic force. Her energy radiates off the screen throughout the entire runtime of this movie. You’re happier because she’s in your life and you’re not even a character in the flick. Plus, the girl is crazy talented musically. I guess she won America’s Got Talent a couple of years ago and it’s really not hard to see why. I’m already jamming out to the soundtrack of this movie that I finished about half an hour ago. I hope this is just the beginning. I would love to see more of Grace VanderWaal and, if studios are smart, I think we will.

The only thing I didn’t really care for in Stargirl was some of the direction. I’m specifically referring to the musical moments. I understand the urge to really give VanderWaal the spotlight, but making those look like music videos was a mistake in my opinion. It took me out of the movie. I felt less like I was watching the character and more like I was watching the performance. It felt like the director going “LOOK AT HOW TALENTED THIS GIRL IS.” I know. I can see it. Please, just make a movie and let her talent shine more naturally. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in all honesty. I just was kinda caught off guard a bit by it.

Other than that, I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Stargirl. Everything else is good, but doesn’t really stand out. I feel like the movie’s legacy is going to be almost comparable to that of the book in my mind. I’m going to take the character of Stargirl and VanderWaal’s performance and think of them fondly, while forgetting almost everything else. It’s not that anything else is particularly bad. It’s just that she is so damn good.

TL;DR: Watch Stargirl for the incredible performance by Grace VanderWaal. She’s really, really good in it.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

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