Starstruck is one of the great forgotten flicks of the 80s.
Its name should be uttered with quiet reverence in the same breath as Valley Girl, Sixteen Candles, and the Breakfast Club, but - sadly - namedrop the film in North America, and you're likely to get a resounding "Huh?," even among 80s aficionados.
I've probably watched my old, decrepit VHS of this movie about 100 times over the last 20 years, and the thing that's always brought me back for more is how the sincerity and quirkiness of the family scenes plays against the spirited and energetic new wave musical numbers - sure, they're amateurish by today's standards, but the complete conviction and enthusiasm with which they're executed is a giddy (not guilty!) pleasure.
The song highlights here are many, but my personal favorites are "Body and Soul," the Split Enz song from the band's best CD, Frenzy, and the irrepressible "I Want to Live in a House," which lays bare the link between punk rebellion and nerdy frustration; Ross O'Donovan and his merry band of misfits "oi, oi, oi" their way through a sarcastic and convincing rave up with more nervous energy than an early Elvis Costello video; if you don't have goosebumps by the key change, or you don't immediatlely watch it again, congratulations: you're clinically dead.
The DVD is a huge improvement on the VHS edition. It's great to finally see the film in all its widescreen glory with much-improved sound and picture quality. I was a bit worried that part of the film's charm lay in the nostalgia of watching it on washed-out videotape, but that's definitely not the case. The greatest sin of the VHS edition, as it turns out, was that it obsured the fantastic production design. I must've paused the DVD 15 or 20 times last night to take a closer look at the background. Bravo!
The extras are interesting, but -- where are the interviews with Jo Kennedy and Ross O'Donovan? It's impossible to watch this film without wanting to find out more about both of them. As Gillian Armstrong notes in the extras, O'Donovan was 17 when he made the film (playing a 14 year old), which would make him 41 today. How does he feel about the film and his performance today? An expanded edition, please.
The discussion with screenwriter Stephen MacLean is interesting, in that he doesn't seem to like the film very much; ahh, the classic grouchy screenwriter who wanted to direct his own work! He cultivates the image, as he's interviewed on the beach getting a leg massage.
Interestingly, MacLean says that he thinks O'Donovan's performance is weak(!), and he wishes he could've chosen the songs himself. He also recalls a time he saw the film in a theatre and found himself sitting next to a six-year-old girl, who attempts to explain what's going on to her two-year-old sister. Good stuff.
All the interviewees say the film did better in the U.S. than Australia, which is hard to believe. However, I do recall Siskel and Ebert giving Starstruck two thumbs up, so that might've done the trick (hey, it worked for My Dinner with Andre).
The deleted scenes aren't so great; they're mostly extended scenes, and by "extended" I'm using the term liberally -- they're about five seconds longer than the originals.
I join the (building?) chorus of fans demanding a CD of the music; and, while we're at it, why don't we also demand the DVD release of Modern Girls, the other great forgotten 80s flick (notable for featuring Depeche Mode's should-have-been-a-hit But Not Tonight)?