Even though it’s been years since I was in school, I remember what it was like being the new kid in school. All the sudden attention and questions that other classmates would ask me was overwhelming. I would keep to myself and just try to acclimate to my new environment. This is something that I always dreaded having to go through but it’s still one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As I was watching Stargirl, one of the newest Dinsey+ original movies, I couldn’t help but think about these experiences and how they impacted my life.
Stargirl follows Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere), a high school band geek who goes through the regular daily motions of school. Leo gives some context as to what his life has been like up the point of where the movie starts. His father, who Leo was close with, died when he was younger. Since then, Leo’s mom (Darby Stanchfield) has been taking care of him. They moved to a new city to get a new start and have been there for several years. It’s there where Leo meets Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal), the new girl at his school. Leo becomes intrigued by Stargirl since no one knows anything about her. The two become close to one another, which leads to Leo learning more about himself and what truly matters in life.
The trailer for Stargirl quickly captured my attention, especially because of its premise. While I was watching the trailer, I thought about films like Unicorn Store and Perks of Being a Wallflower. With this comparison in mind, I was very excited to see how the finished product would turn out. Within the first few minutes of the film, I was worried about the direction that the film would take. I’m all for backstory on the main characters, but the way it was done in this film disrupted its overall flow. Had the film given Leo a better introduction, the rocky start could’ve easily been avoided.
I think I may be one of the last few people on Earth to know about Grace VanderWaal and how incredibly talented she is. When I watched the Stargirl trailer, I figured that she was just an up and coming actress and was completely oblivious to her music career. The cheerful and hopeful attitude that her character displays all throughout the film is completely believable. I’m surprised that this is one of her first major roles and she’s already made me a fan. With her being the new kid at school, I figured that she would’ve struggled to adapt and make friends. However, Stargirl completely blew away my expectations. Her eager and quirky attitude towards school was a new way to tackle the “new kid at school” trope that reminded me a lot of Leslie Burke in Bridge of Terabithia.
I was also surprised by how much music would be a factor in Stargirl‘s plot. Given that VanderWaal is a musician, in retrospect, it’s not surprising that she would be the one to be at the center of the musical numbers. One of the major musical numbers occurs during a football game. It gives Stargirl a chance to introduce herself to the whole school in a way that will truly capture their attention. It’s a catchy tune that also offers the necessary school spirit to encourage students to cheer for their school’s team. I imagine that the song will be stuck in my head for the next few days.
One of the most surprising elements of Stargirl was the particularly aesthetic shots that occurred during some scenes. One takes place during Leo and Stargirl’s first time hanging out outside of school. They walk through the desert and talk about what their lives were like growing up. They both share a lot of similarities and bond over them. It’s one of the more sentimental moments of the film and the way the scene is shot only adds to that sentimentality. The shots aren’t overdone nor do they happen just for the sake of the plot. They’re pleasing to look at and made me focus a lot more on the conversation that Leo and Stargirl were having.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Stargirl. From the fantastic musical numbers, VanderWaal’s incredible talent, and the aesthetically pleasing shots, the film does an incredible job at portraying a much more non-conformist approach to the “new kid at school” trope. Stargirl is a character that only appears in certain films and is able to shine a light on the fact that it’s perfectly okay to be different. This is a film that I will definitely be thinking of whenever I can to remind myself of the lessons that Leo learns from Stargirl. I also didn’t know that the film was based on a book by Jerry Spinelli. Looks like I’ll have an excuse to return to Leo and Stargirl’s story once again.
Stargirl is available to stream now exclusively on Disney+.