The greatest Australian film you’ve (probably) never seen, Gillian Armstrong’s hyper-coloured feminist rock musical dares you not to fall in love with it.
If The B-52’s were a movie, they’d be Starstruck. It’s hard to explain better than that, but if you know, you know. Gillian Armstrong’s unlikely follow-up to My Brilliant Career (1979) charts the adventures of aspiring singer Jackie Mullens (Joey Kennedy) and her cousin Angus (Ross O’Donovan) who seek to find stardom through a series of increasingly erratic stunts in between working – and living – at the Harbour View Hotel. The fact Starstruck is so underseen remains one of Australian cinema’s great tragedies: it’s an originator, yet the legion of well-intentioned imitators in its wake – Strictly Ballroom (1992), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Josie and the Pussycats (2001) – are testament to the impact of its influence at the time, even if it hasn’t retained their legacy.
“He reckons guitars are like phallic symbols and guitarists masturbate for a living, so God knows why you need me.” – Jackie
It’s hard to look away from punk-singer-turned-actress Kennedy’s captivating performance, but O’Donovan is just as singular as her 14-year-old manager. Together, they’re a one-two punch when it comes to comedy, charisma and catastrophic charm. From the production design and costumes, to the choreography and ear-worm soundtrack brought to life with some of the wackiest musical set pieces you’ll see on screen, Starstruck is a masterclass in not just leaning into every weird artistic tendency one might have, but fully committing to it with a tits-to-the-glass level of abandon. Often things that present as outwardly feminine don’t get taken seriously in popular culture, which is the only explanation for something like Starstruck. Hilarious, sexy, heartfelt, and unrepentantly original, it’s an underappreciated gem in the catalogue of one of modern cinema’s great filmmakers, Armstrong.
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator
Proudly presented in association with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s digital restoration program, NFSA Restores: reviving our cinema icons.
READ: Rediscovering Starstruck: Gillian Armstrong’s 80s rock musical extravaganza Kate Jinx, The Guardian, Aug 2017
READ: Starstruck: Melbourne Cinémathèque Annotation Ben Kooyman, Senses of Cinema, Apr 2020
READ: Tutus and Fake Boobs: The Outrageous Costumes of Starstruck Beth Taylor, National Film & Sound Archive