We’ve seen plenty of shows where someone falls for someone else who is out of their league; usually the inequity is apparent in how one pursues the other. But Starstruck mixes up the formula a bit; here, the woman with the roommate and two dead-end jobs sleeps with a movie star after not realizing who it was, and she just chalks it up as a funny story. But then they meet again. Read on for more…
STARSTRUCK: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Two women are outside of a club on New Years’ Eve, smoking before they go in. One is trying to convince the other to go in and have a good time.
The Gist: Jessie (Rose Matafeo) is the one who hates the whole “forced good time” vibe of New Year’s Eve, but her roomie and best friend Kate (Emma Sidi) wants to go into the club and chat up some guys. She does just that, having some drunken and boring conversation with some guy about Bitcoin. Jessie, having just about enough of the dullness and full of booze, goes to the bathroom. She heads into the men’s room to skip the line to the ladies’ room.
She thinks she’s by herself but then a handsome guy named Tom (Nikesh Patel) comes out, and the chemistry between them is immediately apparent. Then they run into each other at the bar. She thinks he looks like someone she worked with one time. The chemistry is so great that they make out in the cab back to his place. When they have sex, she’s asking him for consent while on top of him.
The next morning, as she sneaks downstairs to make her way out, she notices Tom’s face on a movie poster. Turns out he’s action movie star Tom Kapoor; despite working in a cinema, she didn’t even make the connection that night. She’s at first flabbergasted, but then the two of them have sex again.
She comes home and mainly thinks of this as a fun story to tell Kate. But after she gets off work at the movie theater, she runs into Tom, who was there to return a charger that wasn’t even hers. They walk to his place and they realize that the first night wasn’t some sort of drunken lark. So he asks her up; the next morning, she snoops around his nightstand and finds photos of Tom with what looks like a girlfriend, causing her to dash out of his flat. Paparazzi snap her photo, but then stop when they think she’s the cleaning lady.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? It’s fairly obvious that Starstruck is Notting Hill in reverse. But the chemistry between Jessie and Tom reminds us of Dev and Rachel in the first season of Master Of None.
Our Take: It’s not a surprise that Starstruck rides on the personality of Rose Matafeo, who created and wrote the series. She’s a New Zealand native who has been burning up the UK standup scene over the last few years, and if you’ve never seen her before, what makes her appealing is fully on display in Starstruck.
Matafeo is not playing Jesse as some lovelorn twentysomething who is blown away that she “outkicked her coverage” with Tom. In fact, she’s a confident millennial who gets laid when she wants to get laid, doesn’t look for anything other than fulfilling what she needs at a specific time, and isn’t putting her life on hold for anything or anyone. Sure, she works in that upscale cinema and as a backup nanny, but she makes the most out of both those jobs.
Most of all, she assuredly isn’t star struck by sleeping with Tom, despite the show’s title. Her amazement at the circumstance lasts all of two minutes then she’s being her charming self once again. But she isn’t mooning over the guy; in fact he’s probably pursuing her more than anything else.
That’s what makes Starstruck so entertaining. There’s something undeniable between Tom and Jessie — Patel holds his own with Matafeo’s banter — but neither of them are obsessing over it. In the second episode, it’s spring, and Tom happens to see Jessie outside a restaurant where he’s meeting with his overbearing agent Cath (Minnie Driver); Jessie has moved on with one-night stands and the prospect of maybe hooking up with an old fuck buddy. But again, when they connect, it’s a lot of fun watching the two of them together.
If the entire season consists of the two of them insinuating themselves into each other’s lives and giving off sparks every single time, it’ll be a very entertaining bunch of episodes to watch.
Sex and Skin: As we mentioned, Jessie and Tom have sex on New Year’s Eve, but Jessie has her bra on and Tom is under the covers.
Parting Shot: After Jessie disappears, Tom tries to call her. She sees “Tom Famous” come up on her phone repeatedly while she’s on the bus, and just wonders if she helped him cheat on his girlfriend.
Sleeper Star: Joe Barnes plays Joe, who works with Jessie at the cinema and seems to have quite the crush on her. Just seeing him spill a massive amount of popcorn is funny in a pathetic way.
Most Pilot-y Line: There are a few lines here and there that give us clues that Jessie may be weirder than she lets on; she talks about government surveillance and then, after sleeping with Tom again, she starts asking him how much things in his flat cost. Not sure if that’s to make Jessie merely quirky or to set something up later.
Our Call: STREAM IT. The charm of Rose Matafeo and the chemistry she has with Nikesh Patel is more than enough reason to watch Starstruck.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
Originally published at https://decider.com/2021/06/10/starstruck-hbo-max-review/ on .