The friendship between two unlikely girls in 1960s rural America is explored in this coming-of-age film from director Martha Stephens.
Iris Deerborne is a wallflower in a small town in Oklahoma. She always finds herself embarrassed by her overbearing and overprotective mother and always bullied by her classmates. One day on her way to school, she is once again met with ridicule by three of her classmates. However, she shockingly gets help in the form of new townie Maggie Richmond, who comes from a strict religious upbringing. Maggie, despite her upbringing, has been a bit of a rebel and slowly hits it off with Iris.
As Maggie helps Iris gain more self-confidence, Iris still draws the wrath of classmates Clarissa and Hattie. Clarissa maps out a plan to draw Maggie away from Iris in a desperate attempt to get the attention that is slowly diminishing. Meanwhile, Iris discovers that a condition she once believed to have had turns out to be gone and Iris even stands up to her mother for the first time. She even starts a puppy love romance with local boy Jeff. However, the once strong bond between Maggie and Iris is threatened not only by Clarissa, but a shocking secret that could destroy the reputation of one family.
It is always refreshing to see a coming-of-age film, especially when it comes to seeing two complete opposites becoming best friends. However, with Martha Stephens directing and the setting being 1960s Oklahoma, it brings a sense of realistic human emotion as opposed to the sappy rom-coms we’re used to today. This is a more accurate description of not only life in 1960s Oklahoma but with certain themes explored, it shows the level of prejudice during those days, where the same certain themes are more accepted in today’s society.
Kara Hayward is excellent as the wallflower Iris. You can only sympathize with her from the very beginning as she is seen as one who faces constant torment by not only her classmates, who call her “stinky drawers” because of an accident that happened in class but facing embarrassment from her own mother, as played by Jordana Spiro. Up until the introduction of our second main character, Iris’ saving grace comes in the form of her father Hank, well played by Shea Whigham, who at first may seem like a complete jerk, but he is rather the opposite. It’s clear he does care for Iris and even tends to tell his wife a thing or two about her embarrassing comments towards her.
Liana Liberato tends to play that cool collected rebel-like character as she did in the earlier Banana Split. She is great as Maggie, the newcomer to town who has a few secrets of her own. One is evident is that she comes from a strict religious upbringing when Iris notices a bruise on Maggie’s face. Tony Hale and Malin Akerman are really good as Maggie’s parents, the dad who comes from a strict upbringing and the mom who seems to give us a bit of a notion where Maggie might be getting her little rebellion action from.
The film has the typical supporting types of characters, including a boy crush for one of the characters; a band of bullies in this case the characters of Clarissa and Hattie who act like they can constantly taunt Iris and despite Maggie’s reservations, use Iris as a stepping stone to make Maggie break away from her newfound friend. However, it is within the final 20 minutes of the film that a shocking twist that becomes completely unexpected happens and just when you think it involves two certain characters, you will soon discover it is not what you think and will make jaw drops.
To the Stars is a very realistic look at rural like in the 1960s and the unexpected friendship between polar opposites, all driven by excellent performances by leads Kara Hayward and Liana Liberato.
WFG RATING: A
Samuel Goldwyn Films presents a Northern Lights Films production in association with Foton Pictures, Prowess Pictures, and Rockhill Studios. Director: Martha Stephens. Producers: Stacy Jorgensen, Gavin Dorman, Kristin Mann, and Erik Rommesmo. Writer: Shannon Bradley-Colleary. Cinematography: Andrew Reed. Editing: Nathan Whiteside.
Cast: Kara Hayward, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Tony Hale, Malin Akerman, Madisen Beaty, Sophi Barley, Lucas Jade Zumann, Adelaide Clemens, J.D. Evermore, Brandon Stanley, Matt Coulson.