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  Starstruck Pop Goes OzBuy this film here.
Year: 1982
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Stars: Jo Kennedy, Ross O'Donovan, Margo Lee, Max Cullen, Pat Evison, John O'May, Dennis Miller, Norm Erskine, Melissa Jaffer, Phil Judd, Dwayne Hillman, Ian Gilroy, Ned Lander, Mark Little, Ian Spence, Kerry McKay, Peter Davies, Carol Burns, Geoffrey Rush
Genre: Musical, Comedy
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jackie Mullen (Jo Kennedy) works in her family's bar behind the counter, but dreams of stardom, and her cousin Angus (Ross O'Donovan) is the boy to help her, especially as he prefers to pen her songs to sing rather than go to school. It is he who realises there's a chance they can gain national coverage through a big, summer, end of year concert at Sydney Opera House hosted by a popular television personality (John O'May) Jackie has a crush on, and the reward they get could save the family pub, but they have to walk before they can run, and Angus has devised a gig appearance at a local club...

For a brief time in the early eighties it seemed as if Australia was going to start producing a run of movie musicals, and although that promise was nipped in the bud thanks to The Pirate Movie not living up to expectations, one minor hit emerged, and that was Starstruck, directed by the sole female directing member of that nation's cinema New Wave of the seventies, Gillian Armstrong. As with many of her works, it featured a strong female protagonist but this was one of her sunnier films, and even though things did turn more serious for Jackie the further this progressed, it was one of the most exuberant efforts to hail from Oz in its decade.

This may have looked to the classic American, "Let's do the show right here!" style of musicals, but there was an unmistakably Aussie approach which translated into what could have been a particularly insular, strictly for the home fans end result. But it didn't: this wound up with fans all over the world either through its initial cinema release, or more likely through its appearances on television among those who wanted fun, catchy tunes and daffy comedy, which this supplied generously. That said, there were elements which you would not have got in a teen movie from many other places: this might initially seem to be aiming at the very young, but it doesn't continue in that vein.

So before long you were treated to nudity, pot smoking, tobacco smoking for that matter (and lots of it), a number dedicated to the homosexuality of one character, and if it didn't go as far as having swearing then it did go in the direction of the more grown up than many would have expected - maybe they mature faster in Australia. Kennedy proved to be a game soul, up for anything and that included the singing which she handled herself, even demonstrating a knack for tightrope walking which comes in handy when Jackie grabs the headlines by staging a walk between two tower blocks, thereby making sure that everyone in the country has heard of her (mostly thanks to her "topless" top). O'Donovan, too, as the heart of the tale, overcame amateurism to contribute to the overall delightful tone.

This was scripted by Stephen MacLean, and was his highest profile work whereas for Armstrong international efforts beckoned, and no wonder when she showed such flair here for storytelling. The fact that the movie was as wrapped up in its own world as Jackie was could have operated against its appeal, but being so singular in its method rendered it all the more exotic as the New Wave (as in post-punk) tunes cascaded from the screen, all accompanied by production numbers with plenty of dancing in unison from the extras and supporting cast. Jackie's songs sounded something like Kim Wilde crossed with Toyah Willcox, but had a sparkly charm all their own, as did the rest of the film with typical Down Under irreverent humour. When she feels she has sold out with an electropop tune on a TV show halfway through, the mood turns more introspective, but it all recovers for a big, brash, splashy finale. It may be ideal for nostalgists these days as so much a snapshot of its time, but don't dismiss something this entertaining.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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