stars-at-noon-movie-review-2022

“Stars at Noon”- Movie Review

Story posted November 9, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Kaitlyn Murphy.

2022 has been a highly successful year for A24 films, with “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “X” and “Pearl” receiving rave reviews and considerable box office success.

The year may be drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of A24 projects hitting the big and small screens. “Stars at Noon,” directed by French visionary Claire Denis, premiered at Cannes in May and received mixed reviews from critics.

The film is now available to stream on Hulu, and it’s clear to see where the review disparities are coming from.

“Stars at Noon” is the newest addition to the collection of films set in a foreign country (mostly Middle Eastern or Central American) that center around Westerners. It is based on the novel “The Stars at Noon” by Denis Johnson, which takes place during the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1980s.

The film also takes place in Nicaragua, but during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Characters are seen wearing masks and getting tested before attempting to cross the border.

In the first scene of the film, viewers are thrown directly into the problematic situation American journalist Trish (Margaret Qualley) has gotten herself into while “reporting” on kidnappings and hangings in Nicaragua. The U.S-based journalism company she works for no longer has interest in her stories, leaving her broke in a politically unstable country.

While Qualley gives a notable performance, the character itself is unremarkable and quite frustrating throughout the film. If she never got fired by her so-called “employer” over a video call, the audience would never even know she was a journalist.

Her situation gets even more complicated when she meets a mysterious British man named Daniel (Joe Alwyn) at a hotel bar, who claims to work for an oil company doing business in the area. The audience never meets any of his coworkers, and the character has somewhat of a doomed aura surrounding him the entire film.

Trish and Daniel enter into an illicit affair, which Trish continues to pursue even after learning he is married. Qualley’s frantic and continuous energy in the relationship starkly contrasts Alwyn’s stoicism, and it’s hard to determine if there is true chemistry between the two or if they’re both simply trying to ignore the hopeless situation they are trapped in.

Alwyn’s performance doesn’t do much to advance the film, but his character is absent of depth and life to begin with, so he worked with what he was given.

It is not ideal for a film surrounding the turmoil in Nicaragua to center around the love affair between two Westerners, which makes “Stars at Noon” tough to remain invested in for its 2 hour, 17 minute run time.

Of course, it could be viewed as Denis’s commentary on Western ignorance in times of foreign political unrest, but the painfully slow pacing deters the viewer from giving any real consideration to the meaning behind each event.

Denis attempted to make the film as authentic as possible, with drawn-out shots of Trish doing simple activities such as dressing, walking down the street, or drinking very heavily. While it is a creative choice that fits the raw aesthetic of the film, it just contributes to the dullness already provided by the unmoving romantic plotline.

The “thriller” aspect of “Stars at Noon” (which should never have been labeled a “thriller'' in the first place) kicks in towards the conclusion, when Trish and Daniel make their attempt at fleeing the country.

It is a messy and confusing ending, the kind that requires a Wikipedia search as the credits roll to fully understand what happened. At one point in the film Daniel says “my mind won’t function,” and that about sums up how it felt at the end of this film.

“Stars at Noon” centered around two unrelatable, shallow protagonists and made the political intrigue much too complicated to understand or connect with. It is certainly among the weakest additions to A24’s 2022 lineup, but could possibly still scrounge up Oscar buzz for Qualley’s performance or Denis’s direction.

Rating: 1.5/5

Kaitlyn Murphy is a first-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email kvm6255@psu.edu