Julia Hart, the show’s director, has quietly developed a Disney+ franchise that continues to unfold in ways that are both imaginative and endearing. Just as the lockdown was about to begin, her version of “Stargirl” was released on the streaming service. With “Hollywood Stargirl,” the second film in the series, it is abundantly evident that the writer-voice director has taken shape in the same secure manner as that of her teenage heroine.
The follow-up that Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz created thankfully deviates from the source novel “Love, Stargirl” by author Jerry Spinelli in a significant way in order to present its own distinctive perspective on the ways in which artistic passion develops and is inspired. In contrast to the first film, which was told from the point of view of a male protagonist and focused on the achievements of the protagonist’s male love interest, the second film flips the perspective to the protagonist’s female love interest and places a greater emp6hasis on her sparkle and brilliance.
Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal), a sentimental songbird, is once again on the move. She has relocated from Mica, Arizona, where she was living quietly in the suburbs, to the busy city of Los Angeles, where she will be performing. However, she has grown weary of the sensation that she is a wandering stone without a place to call her own.
It is the summer before her senior year, and her mom, Ana, played by Judy Greer, has finally landed her big break working as the costume designer on a studio film. The two travelers are more than ready to settle into their new, maybe permanent adventure in the diverse enclave of Los Feliz after a long and arduous journey across the country. However, genuine satisfaction won’t be achieved without first overcoming some challenges.
Stargirl’s fearless attitude, eccentric sense of style, and pitch-perfect pipes immediately attract the attention of a number of people, including her grumpy downstairs neighbor Mr. Mitchell (Judd Hirsch), a retired film producer, and the cute boy next door Evan (Elijah Richardson), an aspiring filmmaker. Evan is the one who recruits her to help him and his brother Terrell (Tyrel Jackson Williams) make a sizzle reel for their movie idea, which, of course, vaguely parallels the story of “Hollywood Stargirl” itself.
While both have opposite reactions upon hearing her ukulele-forward cover of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by “Mama” Cass Elliot, Evan is the one who enlists her to help him and his brother Terrell make the While Ana is preoccupied with severe work restraints, Stargirl starts on a personal goal to write her own music and lyrics so that she is no longer dependent on the artistic abilities of another person to raise her own abilities.
The best possible sequel has been painstakingly and ingeniously crafted by Hart and her team. The story develops the bubbly protagonist’s personal and exterior goals through a subtle but significant arc, and the technical contributions, both graphically and sonically, compliment her journey.
The main character in the movie is never betrayed in any way, shape, or form. Although the other characters improve their lives for the better as a result of getting to know her, they also help to illustrate the ideas. After the cynical and disillusioned singer-songwriter Roxanne Martel (Uma Thurman) turns down a request to use one of her songs, Stargirl and Evan are inspired to write their own melancholy bop, which sends a powerful message about the nature of the music industry and the importance of being resourceful.
Shooting the movie like a sweet summer romance where daily possibilities are endless and the weather in Southern California is always pristine, Hart and cinematographer Bryce Fortner complement our heroine’s inherent vibrancy with a fresh, saturated palette, while handheld shots aid in the immediacy and intimacy of introspective moments. The editors Tracey Wadmore-Smith and Shayar Bhansali leave space for interstitial sequences that highlight the serene beauty of Los Angeles.
These sequences can include anything from the glimmering city lights to the jacaranda and palm trees that share the landscape. Composers Rob Simonsen and Duncan Blickenstaff’s themes combine to entrancing effect as Stargirl’s talents mature. The soundtrack itself, which features a mix of original songs by Michael Penn and covers of Blondie’s “Dreaming” and Brian Wilson’s “Love and Mercy,” amongst other songs, is also an improvement from the previous film.
VanderWaal is once again a captivating presence because of her short pixie haircut, her reservoirs of power, and her beautiful, soft-spoken voice that evokes the legendary Mia Farrow. Due to the fact that the content this time is mostly focused on her, she is able to lend an established character a stronger sense of realism and sorrow.
Richardson, who exudes buoyancy and charisma, is a good match for her, and the two of them have a chemistry that convinces us of the sincerity of their youthful love. As for the grownups, Greer adds depth and texture to Ana, creating a subtle feeling of parental guilt in the process of balancing Ana’s goals with the practical realities of life. Both Thurman and Hirsch are superb in demanding and emotionally complex supporting parts.
In the end, the strength of the movie lies in the ideas it presents concerning the concept of success, including what it may be like, how to acquire it, and how to keep it in an industry as fickle as the entertainment business. It is a heartfelt ode to the artistic and creative process, and it is addressed to those who have unyielding aspirations.