The Starling Girl Review: Eliza Scanlen’s Stunning Performance Will Blow You Away


A note to Oscar voters: remember Eliza Scanlen’s remarkable portrayal of a 17-year-old girl recovering in a fundamentalist Christian community in rural Kentucky in the starling girl. Steadily building before surprising you with its depth in the third act, the film gives Scanlen an ideal platform to showcase his exceptional talent. We’ve seen her before, of course. She has generated a lot of buzz playing a rebellious young woman opposite Amy Adams in sharp objects and later, as Beth March, in the wonderful role of Greta Gerwig as a writer/director in Little woman. Here, Scanlen’s sublime performance deserves attention. and recognition.


Like several of Scanlen’s previous outings, his new film is directed by a powerful woman, this time Laurel Parmet, who writes and directs. the starling girl with care and caution. The story revolves around Jem Starling (Scanlen), a vulnerable teenager trying to understand herself, her fascination with an older youth pastor (Lewis Pullman), and her own place between her family and his family. her Christian community. The film also stars Wrenn Schmidt, Jimmi Simpson, Claire Elizabeth Green, Austin Abrams, Chris Dinner, and Brianna Bronger. It’s a coming-of-age tale to savour, one that stays with you long after you’ve experienced it.

A Jem that shines

The Starling Girl movie with Eliza Scanlen
Bleecker Street

the starling girl marks Laurel Parmet’s first outing as a writer-director, and the filmmaker does an exceptional job of finding a rich, nuanced story that dwells in the gray area of ​​life, that esoteric middle line of our lives where too many questions never seem to have an answer. Final answer. That’s Jem’s main problem, actually. She has been raised as a fundamentalist Christian and her mother, Heidi (Schmidt), is strict. Her father Paul (Simpson) is less so, but wherever Jem goes, there is “order” and a code of conduct to follow.

All of that begins to shake with the return of Owen (Pullman), a charming youth pastor, and the pastor’s son, in fact, who returns home to start a new chapter with a wife with whom he clearly hasn’t formed deep bonds. . Not so with Jem though. Jem and Owen are surprised by her growing fondness for each other, and Jem wonders if she is simply in love with Owen, who is 10 years her senior, or if there is, in fact, something else there. But how could that be? There is an age difference. Owen is the pastor’s son. These kinds of things were not taught in church.

Related: Exclusive: Eliza Scanlen And Lewis Pullman On Their Complex Relationship On The Starling Girl

But Jem relies on his curiosity, and as such, this movie comes to life in a way that may surprise audiences. Surprisingly, Parmet does not preach here. The filmmaker takes the audience into the world of Jem, where we witness a constant unfolding of mostly small but significant events that could ultimately change the trajectory of Jem’s life entirely. If you remember how a movie like Moonlight surprises you, Parmet’s exit does the same, and Scanlen dominates every scene he occupies. After all, the “cinema” has not disappeared.

The actors elevate the story

the starling girl it’s a story drawn from Parmet’s real-life events, and it moves along at even paces, but the film’s cast really elevates this effort into a wonderful experience. Wrenn Schmidt, whose previous work in for all humanity was deeply moving, she gives a powerful performance here as Heidi, Jem’s mother. Sure, it’s always a joy to watch actors lose themselves in their roles, but there’s something so haunting and so real about the way Schmidt approaches the role of Heidi that’s exceptional. Here is a woman so deeply dedicated to her beliefs that she is wary and fearful of anything that might endanger them. She walks a fine line of knowing that, but she also stands even more steadfast in her convictions just to keep “order”.

Related: Every A24 Coming-of-Age Movie, Ranked

Meanwhile, Lewis Pullman enchants and seduces the screen with every frame it takes up. Owen is charming, deep, even sensual, in the way he approaches things. He is also cautious, but for different reasons than Heidi’s. And he’s as surprised as Jem by their mutual intrigue and the precarious moral path they might eventually walk. Pullman also adds a rare level of believability here, and in the hands of another filmmaker, his character could seem more like a villain than the flawed human he really is.

Jimmi Simpon’s version of Paul Starling, Jem’s father, stands out. Parmet effectively captures a man caught up in the responsibilities he has created and the desire to make up for them, if only for a moment. The rest of the cast has been cast to perfection, and several scenes with a potential love interest arranged for Jem find Scanlen wonderfully showing us the girl’s ongoing dilemma about her place in the world, and the lengths her family would go to keep them in the know. yours. Happily, Parmet’s temperate illustration of the fundamentalist Christian community is here without any judgment. It’s a beautiful achievement considering the polarized times we seem to be living in.

Bottom line: Eliza Scanlen is a gem. It’s not often that we find an actor we love so perfectly in a story that also allows us to reflect on our beliefs and decisions. It’s best to savor it, and this movie, as it unfolds before you in the remarkably effective ways that he does.

From Bleecker Street, the starling girl it is now playing in theaters.

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