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The Hollywood Insider Stars at Noon Review

Photo: ‘Stars At Noon’

A Masterclass By Margaret Qualley

Whatever this film lacked, it was made up for by a marvelous performance by Margaret Qualley. She is known for her roles in such films as Quentin Tarantino‘s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and the HBO series ‘The Leftovers’. She plays an American journalist stranded in present-day Nicaragua after writing an incendiary article on the country’s immoral and violent  conduct during the Nicaraguan revolution. The portrayal of her character’s frustration and mental disconnection from the things she has to do to survive in a troubled country is as poignant as it is impressive. Her depiction of a withered and lost soul elicits genuine empathy as we see her trying to get back home. When you’re in her character’s situation, sometimes the only thing you can do is to let loose and try not to worry so much. Qualley does well to portray her character’s hilariously cynical and screwy persona. Daniel, the other main character, isn’t the only one that falls for her. Qualley’s performance was a series of scintillating superlatives that encapsulate her feminine charm and intoxicating spontaneity.

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Immersive Setting Cinematography

Taking place in present-day Nicaragua, the cinematography establishes the atmosphere of a troubled country. Shots of battered buildings and military patrolling the streets accentuate the impoverished nature of the setting. Shots of “out of” signs in restaurants and other places show the scarcity of various foods and resources in the country. These details in the cinematography do well to immerse the audience into the setting as much as possible and provide insight into a real country that has been struggling. 

‘Stars At Noon’ – A Convincing Romance

This film did well to create a unique and unlikely romance between two individuals with their own serious problems in an unforgiving environment. The fact that they were able to find companionship during such an immensely difficult time was what gave this romance its charm. Intimate and sexual scenes only enhance this one-off connection that these two strangers suddenly developed. While what these characters had was attachment rather than love, it was still endearing that they grew so close to each other and were incredibly vulnerable with each other despite being complete strangers. Moreover, it exemplifies the serendipitous nature of life and love. Unlike many romance films, ‘Stars At Noon’ has a plot grounded in a serious setting that upsells the romance and gets us invested.

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Problematic Pacing

Pacing issues can affect any good movie, but ‘Stars At Noon’ was severely plagued with this issue. It took half an hour for a hint of plot to arise, leaving the audience lethargic by the time the story began to progress. This weak pacing doomed the film from the start. While there was well-done cinematography during the beginning, it does not justify the excess time it took to pick up some speed. It can be relatively easy to lose an audience, and this film can certainly lose the interest of anyone that isn’t willing to stick around for the entire movie.

A “Casual” Thriller

While the film on paper might have been thrilling, the film itself did not exude any thrill or urgency to an otherwise intriguing plot. The story was tied to a relevant present-day situation in the world that is inherently interesting. However, as the movie progresses toward its rising action, very little is done to keep the audience invested. It almost seemed as if the film was actively working to keep the conflict as understated as possible, which is a wrong move in the thriller genre. Action sequences were dull and ineffective in evoking any real sense of danger for the protagonists. Action and thrills were understated to the point that they created logical inconsistencies throughout the movie that were very off-putting. Had this element of the film been better, it could have made it one of the best films of the year. A promising movie was squandered by weakened components that could have easily been done better. Whether this lack of thrill stems from the original screenplay or from the director’s discretion remains unclear. Regardless, this was a huge oversight and a weak point for the production team.

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What Might Have Been

Joe Alwyn, who plays the lead role of Daniel, does not do enough to match his costar, Margaret Qualley’s brilliant performance in this film. The initial casting put Robert Pattinson in the role before he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts while filming ‘The Batman.’ Pattinson has shown his ability with romantic dramas such as ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Water For Elephants.’ His work in Christopher Nolan’s thriller ‘Tenet’ would have also been handy for this film. Overall, Pattinson l would have been a fantastic pairing with Margaret Qualley but sadly, this last-minute recast caused another problem for an already troubled project. 

The Verdict

Although it was misidentified as a thriller, Claire Denis’ messy romance does just enough to make this film enjoyable. The setting and cinematography also give this film the substance and flair that is typically lacking in the romance genre. You’ll come for a thrill, but you’ll stay for the wonderfully talented and beautiful Margaret Qualley. ‘Stars At Noon’ is now available on Hulu.

By Alvaro Devora

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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