The pretentious and precarious challenges that often present themselves between a teenage girl and her mother as they struggle to cope with the trials and tribulations of adolescence can often be difficult to contend with, for both the child and the parent. But when the roles are reversed, and the teen has to instantly mature and take care of their family and house, while the parent tries to relive their youth, can often lead to risky and unwarranted emotional struggles between the two. That’s certainly the case in writer-director William Robert Carey’s comedy-drama, ‘Angels in Stardust,’ which will be available on Tuesday on DVD at Long Island Walmart stores. The film, which is based on the filmmaker’s novel, ‘Jesus in Cowboy Boots,’ is a relatable, but at times underdeveloped, exploration of the challenges both teens and their parents face when the children are forced to take on the parenting role.
‘Angels in Stardust’ follows a young teenage girl, Vallie Sue (AJ Michalka), who dreams of leaving her desolate, gritty small town in Oklahoma. With the townspeople of the ragged community, particularly her indifferent mother, Tammy (Alicia Silverstone), continuously ignoring her needs and desires, the normally fiercely independent adolescent is driven to find solace within herself. She regularly holds conversations with a cowboy (Billy Burke) she has envisioned in her head, who often appears to her on the screen of the town’s old drive-in movie theater. Vallie Sue wishes her mother, who became pregnant at a young age, would stop her partying ways and finally find a man like the cowyboy, who appreciates and love her for who she really is.
While Vallie Sue is determined to escape her small town and claim a scholarship she was promised in Oklahoma City, she’s also committed to protecting her younger brother, Pleasant (Adam Taylor). Between juggling her family life and the outrageous behavior from her peers, Vallie Sue also contends with what to do about the illegal activities she believes are being committed by the residents of the trailer park, including Native American Tenkill (Michael Spears), who Pleasant respects. The brave teen tries to find the courage and strength to reach her full potential in the process, without losing her heart or further hurting the people she cares about.
Michalka and Silverstone were well cast alongside each other as a teen girl struggling to overcome the mistakes made by her negligent mother, whose inattentiveness is driven by her need to recapture her youth after having her two children so young. The young actress-singer-songwriter perfectly captivated Vallie Sue’s resolve of not repeating the same mistakes her mother made, particularly in not sharing Tammy’s belief that the best way to secure her future is by trapping a man. Michalka emotionally shows how the teen cares more about protecting the people she loves, such as her brother, than immediately indulging her own desires, and would do anything to make sure they’re happy before she embarks on realizing her own dreams.
Silverstone, meanwhile, both amusingly and heartbreakingly plays Tammy as a mother who does love her children, but honestly doesn’t know the best way to care for them. The free-spirited mother honestly doesn’t know how to break the cycle that has most likely continuously plagues the trailer park, and emotionally provide for her children. The actress expertly stresses Tammy’s selfish need to always put her own happiness and well-being above her children’s stability through her constant cycle of partying and dates, as well as her superficial desire to earn fast money.
While Michalka and Silverstone intriguingly played their characters’ respective desires and needs against each other throughout the course of ‘Angels in Stardust,’ the script unfortunately failed to live up to the expectations of a strong coming-of-age story. Carey admirably tried to create a relatable, emotional exploration of the growing tensions between an equally independent mother and daughter who take drastically different approaches to acquiring what they want. Unfortunately, the comedy-drama failed to create a fully cohesive plotline, as the story regularly cut between scenes without any fully explained transition, which at times leaves confusion over how the characters relate to each other, and how the tension between them is resolved. With Michalka admirably trying to infuse her character with a drive to fully embrace her independence, the story regrettably didn’t always give her the opportunity to expand Vallie Sue’s coming-of-age journey.
‘Angels in Stardust’ is a commendable effort that honestly tries to showcase the emotional struggles mothers and daughters often experience, as they each strive to establish not only their new identities that are becoming more independent from each other, but also their paths for their futures. Michalka and Silverstone passionately played off of each other throughout the film, as each built the different paths their characters are destined to take. While Vallie Sue strongly proves her individuality and freedom, despite the times she still secretly yearns for acceptance and love from her mother, Tammy naturally reverts back to her youthful ways, as she struggles with her own questioning of where her life is headed. Despite the intriguing and relatable performances given by both actresses, the film unfortunately fails to completely explain its characters’ relationships, or over plausible explanations or resolutions to its conflicts, taking away its chances of reaching its true potential.