'Stargirl' Review: Leo and Susan's love story is about being vulnerable and learning to be true to oneself
Disney Plus' 'Stargirl' is a charming film. It never makes tall promises and stays true to the romantic-drama genre. But, it does run the risk of being labeled 'old wine in new bottle.'
Right at the beginning, viewers are made aware that 'Stargirl' will not steer away from the basics of a typical high school love story. A shy, bullied boy who believes in laying low meets a weird, fascinating, upfront girl and his life changes. He begins to have faith in himself and gathers the courage to embrace who he truly is. While there is nothing new about that, the way it has been told is what makes this film stand out.
Julia Hart shows her ability to communicate effectively by inserting very silent and deep moments of realization shared between the central characters. It is a welcome departure from the vapid conversations that high school movies are usually known for. There are no 'Mean Girls' vibe or frat boys lurking around the corner to give the new girl an NSFW video scandal, the story here is simple, clean, and honest in its intention. The characters evolve through the film and by the end of it are the masters of their universe because they have by then learned to be comfortable with who they are and that there's nothing wrong in being different.
Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) is an unusual kid who loves porcupine ties, and for which he was once shamed and ragged. The stronger boys cornered him and cut up his tie. Bullying is common at schools and usually kids go back into their shells once such incidents occur. Leo's reaction to the episode was valid but maybe if he realized how brave he was, he could have forever shut the bullies up.
It was only after Stargirl aka Susan Caraway (Grace VanderWaal) arrives at Mica High that he realizes his true potential. But to get to that, he had to follow her home, smile silently as she walked across the football field, stare intermittently while she ate her lunch. Stalker much? While it sounds like he was being this creepy boy who lusts for a classmate, Leo here was only trying to figure out if it was the best idea to approach Stargirl directly.
Stargirl had been homeschooled until she arrives in Mica High, which is possibly the reason for her positive attitude towards one and all. She is extremely friendly and out of her kindness does things, which are often marked as strange behavior. She plays her ukelele well and sings too, and her qualities get her into the cheerleading squad. She is the most popular girl in no time, everyone loves her and wants to be with her.
Leo finds himself being drawn towards her but after she cheers for another team at a soccer game, he decides to school her for it, pushing her to become like everyone else in the school. She obliges but can't sustain it for long. After the prom, Stargirl disappears into thin air leaving Leo and the school with memories to cherish forever.
Was she an alien? Leo asks himself as the end credits roll. Probably it was all imaginary or even real, we'll never know but it would be safe to say Stargirl was more than just a love interest in Leo's life. It could be his way of seeking out help, of being with a friend who would guide and provide him with strength as he navigated through the difficult years of his life.
By the end of the film, we see Leo more confident and ready to take on the world with his porcupine ties intact. Stargirl changed him for the better and made him believe in himself, in the person he was.