I must admit, knowing nothing about this film going in had me hoping it was a sequel to the 1984 Jeff Bridges film Starman. It is not. Still, it is about an unusual visitor who comes into the life of someone forever changing it. The titular Stargirl might not be from outer space, but then again maybe she is?
In Stargirl our hero Leo (Graham Verchere) is leading a fairly forgettable life, or at least that’s what the film tells us. Leo has friends, is in band, helps produce a talk show at his high school, and has a loving mom. Chalk up to teen angst. Suddenly into his life comes anew student who calls herself Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal). She dresses like she fell into a box of Goodwill donations and plays the ukulele—so the movie wants us to think her weird. Soon she’s motivating the football team to win, and Leo to, well, sing a song?
If that doesn’t sound like much plot, well, it isn’t. There are actually a lot of strands of plot here. Stargirl tries to help out a boy who gets into a bicycle accident and his sister is furious for reasons I won’t reveal here. It’s the only real conflict in the story, but it sort of comes out of left field and is quickly abandoned. Otherwise, Stargirl is the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s not a character unto herself, but this cute stereotype that descends to only fix Leo’s life, but that of everyone in the high school. We see this at the end because their trophy case is filled—the ultimate measure of fulfillment, I guess?
But Stargirl herself isn’t really a character. At one point she changes the way she dresses and seems to lose some of her inspirational power. The point being to be true to yourself. However, earlier she also lost the power when she helped the opposing team’s quarterback—by being true to herself. Leo is kind of a shy kid, until Stargirl forces him to sing in front of his entire school—because that’s really the true him, I guess?
Look, this is not a film to think too deeply about. It’s beautifully shot and early on there are two fun musical numbers (VanderWaal is a former America’s Got Talent winner). Had the film been more the musical those hint at, I could have more easily overlooked the conflicting messages. As is, I imagine teens and tweens might get some enjoyment out of it and parents might look forward to seeing VanderWaal in something more befitting her talents. Otherwise, I would give this a pass.