Stars at Noon, new film from director Claire Denis

Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn in Stars at Noon

Stars at Noon grabbed my immediate attention because it was directed by Claire Denis. It stars Margaret Qualley, who was so wonderful in Maid. I went into it expecting something good. I’m sorry to report it was disappointing.

Stars at Noon was disappointing in several ways. One, it was just too long. It was two hours and 15 minutes of hard to follow plot, lots of sweaty sex and drinking, and not many answers.

The film was based on a novel by Denis Johnson. That novel was set in 1984 Nicaragua during a revolution. The film’s story seemed to be from 1984 with mysterious oil men, CIA agents, armed soldiers, and Costa Rican cops. But it was told as if it were during the beginnings of the 2020 COVID pandemic. It created such a cognitive dissonance, I could never quite tell what was really happening.

Trish (Margaret Qualley) was stuck in Nicaragua. Her press credentials and passport and been taken from her. She couldn’t leave. Her former editors back in the U.S. weren’t interested in what she was writing about. She was getting by selling sex to a local cop and a Vice-Minister.

Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn on a poster for Stars at Noon

She happened upon Daniel (Joe Alwyn) in a bar. She agreed to have sex with him for $50 in his air conditioned hotel room. After that first night together they were locked in a sensuous and dangerous affair that almost got them both killed.

It was never clear who Daniel really was. A Costa Rican cop (Danny Ramirez) followed them everywhere. Soon they were also under the eye of a CIA man (Benny Safdie). These two knew everything about who Daniel was and who Trish was. Unfortunately, the viewers of the movie never got that information, making the storyline confusing. The ending was ambiguous.

The film had moments. Sensuous scenes, interesting camera angles, brilliant close ups, muddy forest roads. But the script had little energy or momentum. Margaret Qualley is impressive at whatever she does, but moments of greatness didn’t add up to overall greatness for Stars at Noon.

The film is streaming on Hulu.

Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?

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