"Starstruck," a glittery, punk-rock musical, beats with sweet nostalgia and the contrapuntal cadences of the new-wave age. It's an Australian celebration in the spirit of Busby Berkeley, a cross-generational love story trimmed in rhinestones and tap shoes.
It's a change of tempo, too, for director Gillian Armstrong in her first film since the serene biography "My Brilliant Career." But the heroine is the same -- strong-willed and career-minded, with more pluck than good sense. And star Jo Kennedy, torchy and trashy, goes after her songs like she goes after her men, full steam ahead.
Her "Body and Soul," one of 10 songs in the film, topped the charts Down Under last year, and except for one ballad, the numbers make grand excuses for gaudy production numbers. You can't stop the music. And you can't stop the dancing -- delight fantastic, with David Atkins' well-heeled choreography, full of experimental high-stepping.
As for the plot, it's a case of "Hey kids, let's put on a show." Kennedy and costar Ross O'Donovan play cousins Jackie and Angus Mullens, who parody Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in their backlot musical days. The Mullenses live in downtown Sydney over the Harbor View Pub, a blue-collar bar alive with eccentric Aussies. Most delightful of these is fat prophetic Nana, played by New Zealander Pat Evison ("A Town Like Alice"). She and the rest of the Mullenses face eviction if they can't pay the bills.
Armstrong crosscuts from the pub to the neon-lined Lizard Lounge, where the kid customers wear anything as long as it's synthetic. Jackie does a number with a group called The Wombats, followed by a number with the lead guitarist. Later, a joyful dance sequence jumbles the generations as Jackie struts on the bar top, triumphant after walking a tightrope strung across a Sydney skyscraper canyon. The stunt, Angus' brainstorm, gets her on "Wow," a rock show hosted by Sydney's answer to Dick Clark. There she hopes to win a $25,000 talent show and save the family bar.
But success soils our songbird. Jackie, seductive in an LP-shaped, licorice-colored tutu, ditches her friends, beliefs and musical preferences for fame and a chance at the teen host's body. Alas, a beefcake water ballet proves he's gay. Men in tempting tank suits, noses coated with zinc oxide, cling to shark floats in geometric formation, toes pointed. Even Esther Williams would take a dive for this number. It's a show-stopper in a spectacular that never slows down. STARSTRUCK -- At the Key.