THE STARLING GIRL – A Review by Jenn Rohm
Shown at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Laurel Parmet’s full-length debut, The Starling Girl, is now being released in theaters starting May 19, 2023. It is a coming-of-age piece from inside a Christian Fundamentalist community.
Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen) is 17 and to this point has followed the path laid out by her parents and her Church. She is a good girl that wants to keep the peace and not have negative attention thrown her way. Her mother, Heidi, (Wrenn Schmidt) says it is time for her to start courting. In this community that means chaperoned and church events together, it is basically being pre-engaged. Her father, Paul (Jimmi Simpson), is battling his own demons from his life before finding God, while his wife is insisting that everything is fine, and no one needs to know. While there is drama at home, Owen Taylor (Lewis Pullman) has returned with his wife from a mission trip and is taking on the Youth Pastor role. Jem used to have a bit of a crush on Owen and finds any reason she can to talk to him.
The film does convey how isolated from the rest of the world this community is by using gorgeous camerawork that shows the beauty and peace of Kentucky. Eliza, whom some may remember as Beth March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, gives a strong performance with what she had to work with. Sadly, this was not enough to save this movie.
I will admit films and books where women are treated as not having value by the men in their lives and teens are not provided information to understand their own thoughts puts me on edge. Add in a mother, who for all but 60 seconds of the film doesn’t stand up for her child and I am out. I still wanted to give this movie a fair shot. However, with a slow-paced script that was not only full of predictability but is a bit too close to being a manual for how to take advantage of a 17-year-old girl, this movie has me regretting watching it.
Director: Laurel Parmet
Written By: Laurel Parmet
Cast: Eliza Scanlen, Lewis Pullman, Jimmi Simpson
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Selig Rating: 1 star
Runtime: 1hr. 56 min.
Release Date: May 19, 2023
Theaters: Angelika Film Center & Café – Dallas and Angelika Film Center & Café – Plano
Trailer: The Starling Girl Trailer
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well there was nothing else . . .
1 Star – Total waste of time.