High school movies have come along a long way in the past ten years, with revolutions made in Eighth Grade and Love, Simon. The common theme that is seen in these films is the message of being yourself and not conforming to a social norm.
Stargirl is a Disney + original, from Miss Stevens director Julia Hart, in which high school student and marching band member Leo (Graham Verchere) meets the allusive Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal) who is a new student with colour and flair. She stands out from the crowd very obviously, in a school assembly she’s in bright yellow which contrasts with the rest of the student body in darker, dull colours. She takes the whole school by storm, as she puts on performances in the midst of the football games, becoming the team’s good luck charm. There is a sweet relationship between herself and Leo, and their chemistry holds the plot together.
She follows in the long line of Manic Pixie Dream Girls, similar to representations seen in (500) Days of Summer. She follows this quirky persona as she walks around with her pet rat on her shoulder with her ukulele and rainbow backpack. But the performance Grace VanderWaal gives is spectacular and ultimately shows she is a natural at acting. Despite her instant popularity as her performances during the football games bring luck to the team, when she tries to help someone on the opposing team with an injury, the whole school turns on her. This causes her to strip down from her eccentric exterior and attempt to ‘fit in’ in order for people to like her. Even with these changes she goes back to how she was before, as if people cannot love you for who you are, you shouldn’t feel a need to change from that.
The dialogue is sometimes all over the place, as the film didn’t really know what it wanted to be as it breaches the line between fantasy and reality. You can feel that it is attempting to convey a powerful message but ultimately falls flat due to sub-par writing. It’s underwhelming climax leaves much to be desired. There is a sense that there is more to Stargirl as a character as she has this sense of magic, but there is not much else to conclude.
Even though the story can seem predictable and familiar, Stargirl is cheery and uplifting with terrific performances to match. It is definitely one that will positively influence a younger audience to be just themselves, no matter how they are perceived by those around them.
Stargirl is available to stream now on Disney+