Stargirl Review

Leo (Graham Verchere), an unconfident high-schooler, finds his first love with a quirky new student Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal). When Stargirl’s outsider attitudes rub his peers up the wrong way, however, Leo must decide where his loyalties lie. 

by Beth Webb |
Published on
Release Date:

24 Mar 2020

Original Title:


Teen movies have come a long way since Jerry Spinelli wrote Stargirl some 20 years ago. Thanks to painfully well-observed efforts like Eighth GradeBooksmart and Love, Simon, the cinematic definition of the misfit has been turned on its head. Attitudes are kinder, representation better, and characters have broken free of their cafeteria clichés.


Stargirl — a Disney+ original from Fast Colour director Julia Hart — also serves to illustrate how the genre has moved on, but by stubbornly remaining in the past, at a time when simply being an outsider was cause to be ostracised. Geeky kid Leo (Graham Verchere) finds the source of confidence that he’s always dreamed of having in Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal), but the moment she’s ostracised for her individuality by his classmates (each confined to their own pre-determined cliques), Leo turns his back on her, making what should be a sympathetic protagonist vastly unlikeable on account of his outdated values (some regret is offered up further down the line, but his actions are never fully reprimanded).

Stargirl, with her rainbow knitwear and ukulele, is the very essence of the manic pixie dream girl.

A large chunk of the film’s appeal rests on VanderWaal — a former America’s Got Talent winner with a Sia-esque brand of pop music — whose young online following will no doubt flock to stream the release. Yet even this loyal fanbase may fail to connect with VanderWaal’s vamped-up persona; Stargirl, with her rainbow knitwear and ukulele, is the very essence of the manic pixie dream girl from years past, an unrelatable product of the male gaze that is never rewarded with the character development she deserves.

Instead, Stargirl stumbles over a series of lazy narrative benchmarks — the big game, the inevitable high-school dance — and places its eggs in the basket of an amiable yet forgettable protagonist. VanderWaal fans may enjoy the handful of musical numbers that are injected awkwardly into the story, but nothing else exists in the film that hasn’t already been done better by Stargirl’s more progressive coming-of-age movie peers.

At a time when teen outsiders are having their time in the spotlight, Stargirl feels like a relic, and a prompt for Disney to do a better job at capturing contemporary high-school culture.
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us