Distributor: Siren Visual/ Glass Doll Films
Author: James Ackland
Starlet is the 2012 independent drama film written and directed by Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway 2008). It tells the story of Jane (Dree Hemingway) who has escaped Jacksonville in search of a new life in Los Angeles with her dog, Starlet. While furnishing her room from yard sales she happens across a stash of money hidden in a thermos and makes attempts to befriend the seller, Sadie, beautifully portrayed by Besedka Johnson, an elderly bingo playing curmudgeon. Mixed into the story is Janes relationship with her roommates and her day job, that of a rising star in the porn industry.
The films cinematography is bleached by the LA sun and comes across as almost documentary, which helps put you right in the day to day goings on in the San fernando valley, itself a character in the film and shows of the varied types of inhabitants and the way they treat one another. The relationship between Jane and Sadie is wonderful and peppered with trepidation, mistrust and humour.
Dree Hemingway certainly has the body of a actress that would have no problem fitting into the porn industry, but she also provides a deeper delivery in this film and captures the naivety of any young wannabe starlet transplanted into the seedy side of LA and her conflicted conscience when the money lands in her lap.
First time actress Besedka Johonson gives the films standout performance as Sadie, and unfortunately for us her last as she passed away soon after the films release. Her Life as a widowed woman dealing with her garden, the social services and getting to and from the supermarket feels natural and i’m amazed and saddened that this is her only screen credit.
Stella Maeve (the Runaways 2010) also gives a great performance as jealous, failing porn star/junkie Melissa, who from the outset you would like to punch in the face. Its brave to play such a bitchy character and Maeve pulls it off convincingly.
From the outset i was confused and curious by the films outline and the R18 rating (in Australia) it is given for “actual sexual activity". Janes day job is not defined from the outset and there is only 1 scene that features said “activity”.
Shot digitally the picture shows the blaring LA sun, helped by some great lens choices. The picture looks great, if not a little washed out to help with the location and it’s glare. It’s presented in 16:9.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 stereo Starlet sounds great, especially during the Bingo scenes (What can i say, that’s important to Bingo fans) it also has a great electronica score by Manual.
If you love this film, the extras will not disappoint. An enlightening making of and other production extras help flesh out the goings on behind the camera.
"Behind the Yellow Wall: The Making of Starlet" (28:29)
"Shooting the Scene" (4:07)
"Editing Starlet" (3:58)
"At SXSW With Filmmaker" (11:57)
"A Conversation With Dree and Besedka" (4:53)
Besedka Johnson's screen test (5:47)
"The First Rehearsal" (3:08)
"Researching Melissa" (4:34)
Original theatrical trailer for Starlet
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