Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination'  Starring Ethan Hawke SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination' Starring Ethan Hawke From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Secrets, Revelations & An Unlikely Friendship Emerge In The Compelling 'Starlet'

Photo of Katie Walsh By Katie Walsh | The Playlist November 8, 2012 at 5:00PM

Sean Baker’s film “Starlet” wants to play a little trick on you. It’s a fun trick, and it might be more enjoyable figuring it out on your own, but it’s the most important and interesting part of the movie, so it’s hard to talk about its merits without giving it away. In fact, the main crux of the film isn’t interesting enough without the drama of the environment, the truth of which is slowly revealed throughout the first half of the film. You may be able to figure it out within the first sequence, but the fun is in how the film tells you what’s up.
0

Starlet
Sean Baker’s film “Starlet” wants to play a little trick on you. It’s a fun trick, and it might be more enjoyable figuring it out on your own, but it’s the most important and interesting part of the movie, so it’s hard to talk about its merits without giving it away. In fact, the main crux of the film isn’t interesting enough without the drama of the environment, the truth of which is slowly revealed throughout the first half of the film. You may be able to figure it out within the first sequence, but the fun is in how the film tells you what’s up.

Starlet

"Starlet" centers on Jane, a young, listless woman who doesn’t really have any meaningful connections in her life, until she discovers that a thermos she bought at a yard sale is filled with a stash of money. She tries to get to know the elderly woman who sold her the thermos, and ends up befriending the curmudgeonly Sadie. At first it's for selfish reasons, but she’s clearly starved for real human contact, and forces her companionship upon Sadie. Jane’s roommate Melissa and her boyfriend Mikey (played by the electric James Ransone, who needs to be in everything) are consistently high on pot and oxy, drawing Jane into their fights, and you can see why Sadie is a relief for her from the madness. She exists in a state of non-identity, with her ill-fitting clothes, and she seems too smart to be performing a dumb blonde routine that doesn’t really fit either. The trip to the yard sale to personalize her room is the only thing that really signifies who she might be, through the items that she picks to make the place her own.

However, her dumb blonde act soon becomes relevant because SPOILERS AHEAD as we come to realize, indicated by little clues littered throughout (and um, the title), Jane and Melissa are in porn. They live in the Valley and exist almost entirely within the porn industrial context located there. The film has a lo-fi, handheld aesthetic, and it treats porn in the mundane, de-glamorized way that “The Wrestler” or “Black Swan” treated wrestling and ballet. Mumbleporn, if you will?

Starlet
Dree Hemingway (yeah, of those Hemingways) plays Jane, and she brings a nice balance of naivete and sensitivity to the role of a young woman who is confused and lacking in identity, but also headstrong and bold in her own way. One problem is that with her icy blonde looks and lithe, willowy body, she appears more suited to stalking the runways as a high fashion model than performing as a contract star for a low-rent porn company. However, this unassuming nature works for her, as the character does have an underlying intelligence and instinct in the choices that she makes. Her counterpart Sadie is played by Besedka Johnson, who makes her acting debut in this film, and is equal parts heartbreaking, lovely and inspiring in her performance. Another standout performance is Stella Maeve as Melissa, who does "stoned starlet" to perfection. She is infinitely more convincing than Hemingway as a strung out porn actress in the Valley, but maybe that’s the point.

The narrative is a bit slow moving throughout the first third, and its loose structure sometimes allows the story to sag a bit, to its detriment. It does have enough drama of miscommunication, secrets kept, and revelations throughout to keep it moving, but it feels a tad long towards the end. Still, “Starlet” is an interesting effort from indie filmmaker Sean Baker (this is his fourth feature), and signals the arrival of Dree Hemingway as one to watch. [B]

This is a reprint of our review from SXSW.

This article is related to: Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates