I have to admit, it was the announcement that Disney was going to add Frozen 2 to Disney+ early that drove me straight to the “free trial.” I had wavered back and forth about the streaming service when it was first announced, and somehow even refrained despite the raving reviews of The Mandalorian. But my kids’ newest favorite movie, while gearing up for three weeks at home with the four of them undoubtedly going stir crazy even with the hope of well-organized daily routines? No brainer.
Little did I expect that my first film on Disney+ would be the just-released Stargirl, a down to earth story based on the book by Jerry Spinelli, of how a small town high school is forever impacted by an out of this world new girl who shoots in and out of their lives just as her name describes.
Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere), has stayed pretty low key after he and his mother Gloria, (Darby Stanchfield) relocate to the small town of Mica, Arizona following his father’s death. It’s a place where “nothing happens,” and Leo paints a picture of invisibility that began after an ill-fated meet-up with some older bullies when he first arrived years before.
But there is always a little light for Leo. Every year on his birthday, someone leaves a porcupine tie on his doorstep. Knowing the backstory of why this matters, we are given a foreshadowing of what…or whom…is to come.
That whom is Stargirl Caraway (Grace VaderWaal), a local homeschooled student who stops everyone in their tracks when she walks in with her unconventional bright and mismatched outfits, and eagerness to bring joy to everyone around her. And for someone like Leo, who has worked for so long to blend in, she is a beacon of color in a monotone world.
The structure is relatively similar to other teen films, mainly how “the quirky kid wins over some popular kids while encouraging the shy kid to break free from self-imposed averageness.” Stargirl pushes Leo out of his comfort zone while rallying the entire school towards football victory (of course). And yes, there is the ebb and flow of first love’s and fights and good intentions gone bad. The formula isn’t necessarily “new.”
But the manner in which this is delivered felt…more important, maybe?
Maybe it’s because a lot of teen movies end in a kiss with some popular music in the background, and this one strayed from that part of the formula. Maybe it’s because I could actually believe they were in high school. Maybe it’s because I could feel real heart in the script.
Bu I think what really made me sit up and pay attention was Leo’s question, “who would take the time for someone they don’t even know?”
Our world is in a bit of a crisis. Every day, information spreads like wildfire, as we all work to stop a virus that spreads even faster. Some people are panicking, some are ignoring, but most of us are trying to find balance. And all of us are being encouraged to take this time to do something “for someone they don’t even know.”
I don’t have to know you to be kind. I don’t have to know you to press pause on my typical routine in an effort to protect you. I don’t have to know you to want light and color and joy filter into your life, even in the midst of uncertainty.
I don’t have to know you to love you.
At some point, we will go back to our normal routines. There will be stories and memories, as Leo explains, that will leave lasting marks. But what I hope is the most lasting is a commitment to caring for one another at all times, in all ways. We will forever be changed. And it is my prayer that it will be a change that shines as bright as the stars that burn so fiercely above us.
Stargirl is streaming on Disney+ now.