Gillian Armstrong followed MY BRILLIANT CAREER (1979) with a colorful and quirky "new wave" musical which pays affectionate homage to the I-want-to-be-a-star vehicles of the 1930s and '40s.
Angus Mullins (Ross O'Donovan), 14, is determined to make his oddball cousin and best friend, Jackie (Jo Kennedy), a new wave superstar. He secures her a spot performing at a hip club in their home of Sydney, Australia. Jackie makes a splash--and makes off with the house band's leader, Robbie (Ned
Lander). The next morning, Jackie returns to the sprawling, run-down Harbour View Hotel. Owned by Jackie's mother, Pearl (Margo Lee), the hotel stays open only because of its pub. With Pearl on holiday, Jackie wrangles Angus out of school for the week--enough time, hopefully, for him to get Jackie
on "The WOW! Show," a TV program hosted by Jackie's number-one lust object, Terry Lambert (John O'May).
Angus calls Terry, telling him Jackie will perform a high-wire act--naked. Wearing a fake-nude bustier, Jackie does the deed; as a result both she and Angus are arrested which lands her on the news. Terry bails them out; Robbie and his band hightail it to the hotel, arriving in time for Jackie's
celebration. Jackie sings with the band; Terry offers her a spot on his show; Angus convinces the band to back her. The party ends when Pearl unexpectedly returns with Angus's deadbeat father, Lou (Dennis Miller), with whom she's secretly having an affair.
The day of the show, Angus overhears a brewery executive (Brian Blain) demand payment--or property--from Pearl. Angus hopes the performance will win the band a spot in the show's New Year's Eve competition--and its $25,000 prize. When Terry demands that Jackie perform solo, Jackie agrees, and she
alienates Angus and the band. Her performance flops, but she brightens when Terry invites her to a party, only to sink when she discovers Terry is gay. Humiliated, Jackie returns to the hotel, begging forgiveness. Apologies are accepted, but everyone, especially Pearl, is devastated when they find
Lou has disappeared with the contents of the hotel's safe. Determined to show Terry up and save the hotel, Angus devises a plan to sneak Jackie and the band into the competition wearing "WOW!" jumpsuits, have them set up the final act's equipment, and take over the stage. The plan works; the crowd
goes wild; Jackie and the band win the $25,000, saving the hotel.
Fizzy and dizzy, STARSTRUCK has a small but doting cult following, and deservedly so. Encapsulating the eccentricities of the Australian music scene of the early '80s, when bands like Split Enz and Mental as Anything made dents in US charts, the film rejects alienation and rebellion--themes
arching over comparable American films such as TIMES SQUARE (1980) and LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (1981)--in favor of celebrating the silliness within. Notable are the liberal non-diagetic musical sequences; the standout is Angus's "I Want to Live in a House," which he unleashes
before Jackie's solo TV performance. As Angus and the band dash through the studio, making gymnastic use of stairwells, elevators, and hallways, it's clear this film owes more to Busby Berkeley than Johnny Rotten.
O'Donovan and Kennedy make an adorable and convincing pair of "Siamese cousins" as they throw around chiding, sexually-charged banter and playful in-jokes. O'Donovan, with his pugnacious face and nasal voice, impishly works Angus's wise-beyond-his-years angle, while fuschia-haired Kennedy has glee
and energy to spare. While some key performances fall flat--Lander is a particularly cardboard romantic lead--and the actors' singing voices may lean toward the "unsure" side of appealing, O'Donovan and Kennedy show immense promise. Sadly, their faces would be MIA on US screens in following years.
(Look closely, however, and you'll spot future Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush as an irate "WOW!" crewmember.)
STARSTRUCK stands as a big departure in Armstrong's career; known for more sober features such as THE LAST DAYS OF CHEZ NOUS (1993) and LITTLE WOMEN (1995), she directs here with appropriate zeal. The costumes and set design are likely to give viewers an '80s contact high, while the songs, many of
which were penned by Split Enz expatriate Phil Judd, are effective. All in all, it's a film perfect for any girl--or guy--who just wants to have fun.
The original Australian running time is 102 minutes. A recent US video reissue of the film runs 92 minutes; it features reedited musical sequences, a handful of briefly extended scenes, and excises the musical number which reunites Jackie and Robbie. (Nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse,profanity.)
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- Released: 1982
- Rating: PG
- Review: Gillian Armstrong followed MY BRILLIANT CAREER (1979) with a colorful and quirky "new wave" musical which pays affectionate homage to the I-want-to-be-a-star vehicles of the 1930s and '40s. Angus Mullins (Ross O'Donovan), 14, is determined to make his odd… (more)