Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Australia, 1982. The Australian Film Commission, Palm Beach Pictures. Screenplay by Stephen MacLean. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by Richard Brennan, David Elfick. Music by Jeff Burstin, Joe Camilleri, Tony Faehse, Paul Kelly, Sean Kelly, Mark Moffatt. Production Design by Brian Thomson. Costume Design by Luciana Arrighi, Terry Ryan. Film Editing by Nicholas Beauman. Toronto International Film Festival 1982.
There would be no Muriel’s Wedding or Adventures of Priscilla without Starstruck, a fresh and invigorating musical that still charms after decades. Jo Kennedy is wonderful as a plucky young woman who dreams of becoming a famous singer, much to the disapproval of her pub-owning family who struggle to get by in a run-down establishment located beneath Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. After a successful club performance, Kennedy catches the eye of a popular television musical host who puts her into a show, but she is seduced by the limelight and leaves behind her well meaning band and devoted teen cousin (Ross O’Donovan) who acts as her manager. It’s not overflowing with plot, and there’s nothing unique about it ending in a successful musical performance at a crowded concert, but that’s precisely why Gillian Armstrong’s direction is so terrific, as she keeps it moving efficiently with an imperceptible, lightweight touch. The songs are one terrific tune after another, the diegetic numbers as delicious as the ones that go into Busby Berkeley territory, accompanied by creative choreography and filmed expertly by Armstrong, here going for something totally different but equally successful to her directorial breakthrough My Brilliant Career. The costumes, by future Oscar winner Luciana Arrighi and Australian legend Terry Ryan, are a treat in themselves, complementing the colourful neon lighting with their early eighties New Wave, Cyndi Lauper-esque originality.