Tag Archives: Kara Hayward

The Outsiders

To the Stars

by Rachel Willis

Small town Wakina, Oklahoma in the 1960’s is about as dreary as you might expect. Despite many lamenting the “good old days,” director Martha Stephen’s new film, To the Stars, reminds us that world was not the ideal many would have you believe. This is a world in which outsiders were run out of town, thrown to the wolves, or worse.  

Iris Deerborne (Kara Hayward) is one such outsider. She is derided by her classmates, teased by both girls and boys (the teasing of the boys has a sinister sexual nature), and tormented at home by her alcoholic mother, Francie (an effectively cruel Jordana Spiro). Her father is a passive protector, stepping in only after her mother has already thoroughly berated Iris for her differences.

Into Iris’s life strides the outspoken Maggie (Liana Liberato), a girl from “the big city” who speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to hurl rocks at the “good-old-boys” who harass Iris. And while Maggie seems to have a handle on who she is and what she wants, we quickly learn that not all is what it seems with this enviable newcomer.

What connects Iris and Maggie is their sadness. A large part of the movie is the exploration of female sadness, from the quiet despair of the woman who runs a beauty parlor from her home to Francie’s alcoholic outbursts. Even Maggie’s mother seems burdened with her own melancholy as she tries to make the best of her life in a new town. Each of these women feel their “otherness” in a town inhabited by women who know where they fit.   

As Iris and Maggie bond, first time screenwriter Shannon Bradley-Colleary can’t seem to help falling into familiar coming-of-age clichés. There’s the makeover montage as the two girls skip school (a haircut, a new sweater set, and the removal of glasses equals instant confidence). Maggie’s outspoken nature emboldens mousey Iris. The boy Iris likes is sensitive and mysterious, not at all like the other boys. You can mostly predict how the chips will fall as we watch the two become friends.

Occasionally, the film finds ways to thwart overused tropes. Unfortunately, these glimpses of originality are too few. Often, the audience is left scratching its head over certain character choices. Maggie’s mysterious sadness is explored and explained too late in the film and never given the resolution it deserves. This is Iris’s story, and Maggie’s otherness only serves to help Iris become a confident woman.

A few lovely moments of female solidarity help the movie become something a little more than a cliched look at two outsiders bonding, but those instants are mostly lost in a film that can’t seem to embrace its own otherness.


Weekend Countdown: Best Young Actresses Not Named Jennifer Lawrence

Shailene Woodley, the 21-year-old who stole scenes from Clooney in The Descendents, finally returns to the big screen with another awe-inspiring turn in this week’s The Spectacular Now. Woodley is part of a remarkable wave of young female talent worth celebrating. Therefore, this weekend’s countdown: 9 brilliant young actresses not named Jennifer Lawrence.

Quvenzhane Wallis

This nine-year-old boasts an Oscar nomination, a forthcoming historical drama co-starring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender, and the lead in the next silver screen version of little orphan Annie’s scrappy story. Her cherubic face and startling talent offers hope for the future of the industry.


Kara Hayward

Fourteen and brilliant (honestly – she’s a member of Mensa), Hayward made an impression as the heavily eye-lined lovestruck teen in Moonrise Kingdom. Let’s hope Hollywood knows how to make the most of her deadpan genius.


Chloe Moretz

Sure, Kick-Ass 2 disappointed, but the hard-working Moretz doesn’t. Now 16, she has more acting credits than everyone else on this list combined. She’s played disdainful, vulnerable, mean, sweet, blood sucker and victim, and soon she’ll reprise the role Sissy Spacek made infamous. We can’t wait to see what she can do at the prom.

Elle Fanning

The touching, versatile younger sister in an acting clan, this 15-year-old may be the most impressive talent on the list. She has a quiet reserve that draws comparison to Meryl Streep – heady company, but Fanning may just be the one who can live up to it.

Rachel Mwanza

You may not know this impressive talent, but her first professional work in the Oscar nominated War Witch proves her uncanny natural ability. Her devastating, understated performance marks the work of a natural artist and we are eager to see her follow up.

Hailee Steinfeld

She received her first Oscar nomination at 16 for a powerhouse performance that stood up to the likes of Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges in True Grit. She’s been quiet since, but she’ll churn out an impressive number of films in the next two years, including a starring role in Romeo and Juliet this February.

Saoirse Ronan

Oscar nominations, action flicks, period piece drama, teen angst pics, accents aplenty – this chameleonic 19-year-old can seem to handle anything. She’s been an international acting force since childhood and we are eager to see what adulthood brings.


Saskia Roendahl

Another unfamiliar name, perhaps, but 20-year-old Roendahl made the world take note when she brought tender resilience to the devastating war pic Lore. Like Fanning and Mwanza, she suggests a quiet, wary wisdom with her performances that should help her carve out a brilliant career.


Shailene Woodley

And back to Woodley, 21, a refreshingly natural performer whose choices mark someone who wants to act rather than someone who wants to be a star. Like her impressive colleagues on this list, she offers hope to those of us who love movies and thrill to see the next generation of Streeps, Blanchettes, Winslets, Moores and Closes begin their cinematic takeover.