Starlet (2012)

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Perhaps not a fully engrossing story and one that offers up at least two wholly annoying toon like disthpicable (despicable) characters but moving away from this there are two first time movie actresses that bring sweetness, tenderness and enough grounded realistic performances that make the whole film a hit.

This independent film by Sean S. Baker revolves around the unlikely blossoming friendship between an at first supposedly unemployed young lass and a widowed 85 year old. They cross paths one day as the 21 year old Jane (Dree Hemingway) goes to buy yard sale items to make her room more her style. After buying a thermos/vase from the elderly woman named Sadie (Besedka Johnson) she discovers rolled up cash inside and in her guilt of spending decides to help and befriend Sadie leading them to become the most unlikely of allies after Copper and Tod.

It’s a simple enough story of this cheap independent kind of film making to focus on an earthy relationship like dynamic rather than what Hollywood loves to do and centre on explosions and CGI. It takes a while to get into this odd friendship pairing though but once you get there, it is properly worth it and there is a real sweet touch to this bond. There are times when you really wonder what Sadie is doing but she wants the companionship even if she never admits it and with the annoying start in Jane’s character and her guilt overriding the reason to be nice you get to an end road where she realises Sadie is a better truer friend than anyone she knows. That’s about it with the friendship though, it’s plain Jane kind of sailing from Jane and Sadie even with a few story turns thrown in.

I do like the finding out of character backgrounds as the plot progresses, a good welcome change to having exposition spoil all secrets and pasts before the half an hour mark. The secret of Jane concerns her and her brattish roommates work and there’s drop feeding to hint at things but it’s subtle and when you come to uncover what their jobs are it’s a good payoff that makes you understand why Jane is the way she is. There’s a character payoff too with Sadie that comes right at the end of the movie which is sort of obvious by the time they both reach the grassy destination but it’s an eye opening moment for us and Jane that could completely change their friendship for the better.

The non-diegetic music on the most part is like a lullaby summery tone drifting in before sharply cutting to a stop as dialogue is spoken or diegetic sounds hit the speaker. It’s an interesting choice that reflects the warmth of the location that fills the entirety of this movie and also works with the up and down friendship nature of Sadie and Jane gaining momentum and then suddenly stopping every now and then.

Jane’s living housemates are a living nightmare and yes they’re meant to be unlikeable but they’re drawn way too hideously to deem them as real people and they’re like walking caricatures that you hope to die, harsh maybe but watch the film and you’ll most likely agree. Melissa and Mikey are mad, mopey and moronic. Alliteration is the only way I can go about describing their ghastly personalities. It’s just a good thing that Jane shows a sign of stepping out of that world and into a more interesting, nice and cultured one…well maybe, even though the threat of her career and new quarters still lead you to worry how she’ll carry on.

Dree Hemingway is childish, mature, kind, angry and helpful but most of all she’s believable as this growing young woman. It’s a confident rooted performance that somehow amongst the times you see her like a Paris Hilton tragedy you still like her. There’s a smile she gives that radiates beauty and warmth, for example at the bingo scene when she shows it off knowing Sadie will agree to the plan she has paid for. Besedka Johnson is sadly no longer with us and that makes the film even more sad to a degree and for a first time ever acting in anything she is incredible. She acts the detailed opposite world of Jane’s with ease and a calm aurora. The image of her shaking and beginning to cry as she tries finding Jane’s dog is enough to rend the heart into many little pieces. It’s these two female performers that make the film what it is and even if the story is basic they sell it fantastically.

A very indie feeling film that explores how two people from separate lives can blend in the image obsessed environment of LA. The story and Jane may have their flaws and the washed out palette of the movie may feel tiresome but stick with the story and you’ll end up seeing a good honest and bittersweet story about human connections.

7.5/10

 

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