Sometimes, a movie can have too many ideas. Too many things it wishes to convey. Sometimes, a movie can think too smart or highly of itself. Such is the case with Starfish. It’s about the end of civilization. And the death of a friend. And mourning. And memories. And signals. And transmissions. And CG monsters. And twinkly indie music. And…
Billed as being about the discovery of a mixtape that will “save the world”, I was half expecting something either fun or dramatic, not sappy and mumbly with moments of creature feature. Starfish begins like a pseudo-Lars Von Trier flick (creepy title card included), with shots of an invasion coming from above, then moves into an experimental visual palette, where anything and everything can burst into frame. When our main character Aubrey leaves the wake dedicated to her now passed best friend Grace, she heads off to an apartment for an evening of remembrance and regret. Upon opening the door, a drop of water hits her hand. Then a drop of blood. This is never acknowledged as having “happened”, making for a film with the potential of breaking barriers and borders of various landscapes.
Sadly, Starfish is merely interested in maintaining its own status quo. A weird one to be sure, but also a boring one. From what I can gather, after long meandering sequences of self-reflection and mundane activity, Aubrey discovers that the world has succumbed to an alien attack, leaving the climate a frosty ever winter. Through songs curated by her dead friend Grace, she treks across the planes of what was once the world and her own past, to reconcile the monsters of her making and the ones that are literally killing everyone.
Virginia Gardner plays Aubrey as doughy eyed and faced, almost expressionless at times due to her depression and ambivalence to most things in general. When the world ends overnight, she mostly just sleeps and curls into a fetal position for several days before deciding to wander with her tape recorder to find the pieces of a “signal” that will maybe send home the global threat. I was initially convinced that Gardner was performing Aubrey poorly, but have now come around and, by the end of the film, figured out that what I thought was bland really was a version of stoic sadness. For its lofty intentions and attempts at a style and a thread grander than its reach, the one element of Starfish that works is her.
The use of songs was a bit infuriating for me. Too literally matched to the action going on at the moment, often describing in song what’s actually happening. A form of super-exposition almost. Awfully murmur-ish but many an emotion expressed despite itself, Starfish is bold, to say the least, and frustratingly pretentious to say the most. I’m sure there is a plot underneath it all, absolutely, but in this discombobulated form, in this high and mighty way of fragmentation, it just feels way too idealistic and way too righteous for us to enjoy and understand.
Still, the effort was staggering and stunning. Still, Virginia Gardner was quite something. But… reverse end credits, after all is said and done? Umm…
RATING: 1 / 5
Starfish is now on various VOD platforms for rent and purchase.