I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story, and in this regard Stardust is extremely satisfying. Based on a book by Neil Gaimon, it is the story of Tristan (Charlie Cox), a boy too mild-mannered, soft-spoken and poor to win the heart of the love of his life, Victoria (Sienna Miller). She has pledged her allegiance to Humphrey, a real jerk of a guy who promises to buy her diamonds. Not to be outdone, Tristan promises to bring her the remains of a star they see falling through the night sky. She is intrigued enough to make a deal with him; if he brings her the star, she will marry him. Tristan sets out to make good on his promise by the end of one week, to present it to Victoria as a gift on her birthday. If he doesn’t make it, she’ll marry Humphrey instead.
There’s a catch of course. The star fell on the other side of the Wall, which is forbidden to the residents of Tristan’s village because it is a land of magic. Come to find out that Tristan’s father once vaulted the wall in spite of the elderly but very spry guard. On his visit there he met a servant girl with whom he fell immediately in love. Nine months later he received a special package, a baby whom the servant girl was unable to keep. The baby, of course, was Tristan, and he came with two gifts: a Babylon candle and a glass snowdrop flower. Lighting the Babylon candle takes the bearer wherever he wants to go. When grown-up Tristan lights it, it immediately takes him to the star, which is not a piece of rock as he expected, but an injured and somewhat ill-tempered young woman named Yvaine (Clare Danes). He vows to take Yvaine back to Victoria as his prize, and so they set off on a road trip back to Tristan’s village, the captive star being somewhat less than enthusiastic for the trip.
There are two complicating factors in their quest. One is a prince, Septimus (Mark Strong) who must retrieve the necklace Yvaine is wearing so that he can become the king of their land, Stormhold. The other is a group of three witches who must eat the heart of a star to restore them from disgusting, decrepit old hags to youthful visions of loveliness. One of them, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), goes out to bring the star back to their palace where they can cut out her heart. Nice.
Needless to say, along the way two wonderfully satisfying things happen: Tristan comes into his own as a man, and he and Yvaine fall in love. That’s enough spoilers. To see how it ends, you’ll have to watch it for yourself.
Some side notes:
- The landscape is absolutely beautiful from deep forest to rolling hills to crashing sea.
- There are some fun appearances by other well-known actors like Robert DiNiro and Ricky Gervais.
- Septimus’ six brothers, who all killed each other fighting over the throne, are a wonderful comic aside riding along with him as a ghostly chorus.
- The witches’ make-up is positively gruesome, making even beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer into a deranged monster.
- The chemistry between Charlie Cox and Clare Danes absolutely lights up the screen as much as Yvaine glows when she is happy.
- Robert DiNiro is a real hoot as Captain Shakespeare, showing the actor’s excellent gift for comedy.