• Unrated, 1 hr. 45 min.
  • Drama, Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Sean Baker
    In Theaters:
    Nov 9, 2012 Limited
    On DVD:
    May 7, 2013
  • Music Box Films
  • Starlet
    2 minutes 7 seconds
    Added: Oct 17, 2012


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Starlet Reviews

Page 1 of 4
Bill D 2007
Bill D 2007

Super Reviewer

November 25, 2012
When "Starlet," the new film from cinema-vérité expert Sean Baker, is at its best, it's deeply emotional and filled with under-stated brilliance. At its worst, it's boring and aimless. It's a mixed bag with "Starlet." But when it's good, it's very, very good.

Dree Hemingway (daughter of Mariel Hemingway) plays a young woman in Los Angeles getting started in the pornography business. But "Starlet" is not much interested in the pornography. The focus of the film is an odd friendship that the girl strikes up with a crusty, bitter 80-year-old woman, played superbly by first-time actress Besedka Johnson.

Johnson is so good that I wouldn't be surprised if she wins some Best Supporting Actress awards - or at least some nominations. I don't know how Baker does this. He finds untrained, natural actors everywhere he goes. It's one of his specialties.

Baker first began attracting attention in 2004 when he partnered with Shih-Ching Tsou to make "Take Out," a gritty examination of the army of Chinese men who bicycle around Manhattan delivering Chinese food for $2 tips. He followed that up with "Prince of Broadway," another hand-made movie with a cast of immigrants, this time from the Caribbean.

"Starlet" is not exactly cinema-vérité, but it does have something of a hand-made quality. The casting of Johnson, furthermore, a "real person" as opposed to a professional actor, gives the film that unique Baker touch. Some have described Baker as reminiscent of John Cassavetes. I can see the resemblance. But Baker has a long way to go in terms of story development if he wants to be anywhere near as good as Cassavetes.

Both "Take Out" and "Prince of Broadway" suffered terribly from under-development in the story department. Baker is the kind of filmmaker who believes that if a person looks interesting and very real, an audience will want to watch him/her walk down the street for 90 minutes. Not so. For most people, including most intelligent cinephiles, watching a unique person walk down the street remains engaging for about five minutes. The other 85 minutes must show the person involved in something that's interesting. The character's being in and of itself is not that intriguing. We need to see his being in action. And the action, furthermore, must be thought-provoking -- walking down the street is not interesting action.

Baker appears to have been working on this. "Starlet" is a step forward. There is more story in "Starlet" than in his previous two films combined. But there's still not enough. There are too many slack, repetitious moments in "Starlet," and there is too little revealed about the characters. Baker never gets inside his characters; he watches them from very far away. In a sense, he's more of a cinematographer than a filmmaker. He likes to watch his characters, but he doesn't seem to have much interest in what they have to say. When he writes dialogue, it's bare bones. In a Baker film, the dialogue is really beside the point. This makes his films more like appetizers than entrées. They always whet my appetite but not much more than that.

But there's no denying that "Starlet" has magical qualities. There are moments of truly stunning visual poetry. And its vision of these unique characters is deeply tender. I love how Baker finds humanity in the most unlikely places. When other artists are looking at the people who stand out and make an impression, Baker is noticing the guy who's delivering the take-out food, or the old crone playing bingo by herself to whom no one has spoken in years. I love that he directs his artistry toward these people. I just wish he penetrated inside their worlds more deeply.

Super Reviewer

May 24, 2013
In "Starlet," Jane(Dree Hemingway) wants to add a few touches to her room, but her housemate Melissa(Stella Maeve) tells her not to get too ambitious because Mikey(James Ransome) might need the space to film occasionally. So, Jane checks out every yard sale in southern California, finding a thermos she plans on converting into a vase. That is until she finds about $10,000 in cash inside. After the obligatory shopping spree, Jane feels bad and tries to return the thermos to Sadie(Besedka Johnson) but cannot quite get the right words out. So, Jane looks for another way to make amends like giving Sadie a ride home from the supermarket. And like the saying goes, no good deed happens without a macing...

"Starlet" is an unpredictable, modest and off-beat movie whose humor comes from misperception and preconceptions that even manages to make bingo suspenseful. All of which is centered around a realistic take on the adult film industry that makes it out to be neither good nor bad.(Whether that scene is necessary is debatable. In any case, the film skirts the topic until then.) It just is. The only down side for the performers here is having young women achieve a level of instant fame before they have any idea of the person they will become. Jane is off to a better start than Melissa because she at least thinks about the future and considers other people, even if she makes her share of mistakes when not thinking things through. As far as Sadie goes, not much is really known until that enigmatic final shot.

Super Reviewer

May 6, 2013
Starlet is about an unlikely friendship forming between 21 year-old Jane and the elderly Sadie after Jane discovers a hidden stash of money inside an object at Sadie's yard sale. I ended up liking this much more than I expected. Much like "Future Weather", Starlet tells a simple story containing more depth than what's on the surface. The unique relationship between two different generation of women interacting with one another is fascinating to witness. These two women have different ideals, personalities, and well rounded relationship that changes both output on life. Not only does it show that porn actors can have a heart, but also the darker side of the industry effecting personal lives. It's solely a film driven by the characters which most are highly developed. I didn't mind spending time with the central characters even if the activities they underwent were ordinary and at times just lingered around without a director. Except one flaw comes from the character of Mikey who's the boyfriend of our protagonist roommate is decidedly one note. Another problem are the supporting characters are simply in service to move to the plot. The film does not focus a huge amount of time on Jane's job only rarely seeing her do any actual work. So for those wanting an in depth look of how a porn actor is affected by their profession look elsewhere. In the end Starlet plot is naturalistic, simple to follow and one requiring a lot of thought the events we witness that what's on the surface.

The major upside of this film comes its incredibly talented cast. Dree Hemingway excels in portraying the root of her character. I could imagine other actresses going for a full dramatic take, but would have not been as effective as what Dree Hemingway did. Dree Hemingway is energetic playing a cheerful slacker while handling the duality of her playfulness and lack of maturity when she needs to swift. Besedka Johnson in her first (and last) role will amazed. Johnson has a steady relationship with Hemingway and it very sympathetic without revealing too much in her actions. At first when we see Johnson she's appears as nothing special, but grows on you. The supporting cast is decent and in terms of visuals there is some nice scenery, but nothing to get excited about.

Starlet is simplicity in nature, but filled with more depth in execution. Well rounded character portrayed by leads both giving standout performances make the viewing even more engaging. Starlet might not be for everyone due to it simplistic story, but those who see will be rewarded with a deep story under the surface and fine performances.
December 30, 2013
Thought-provoking movies. If you have patience to get through the boring parts and the often irritating characters, this film will stay in your mind for days.
June 25, 2013
Starlet starts off as a slow, clichéd and yet awkward indie about a young and beautiful wannabe model/actress, Jane (Dree Hemingway - Mariel's daughter ... Ernest's great-granddaughter), who -- along with her materialistic and wishy-washy friends -- roam the streets and hotspots of sun-soaked Los Angeles looking for fun and their next hit. Her roommate Melissa (Stella Maeve - The Runaways) is selfish and shallow and Melissa's pimp-esque boyfriend (James Ransone - Sinister) is a dense tool who likes video games, stripper poles and porn. The film quietly becomes something else when Jane meets elderly Sadie (the late Besedka Johnson in her one and only film performance) at a garage sale when Jane buys an old Thermos in hopes of turning it into a vase. When Jane discovers a stash of cash she wishes to return to Sadie -- who doesn't even want to listen to the young girl -- she sees an opportunity to help the older lady with various everyday tasks. The film becomes a highly unlikely relationship drama between these two drastically different individuals who only happen to have a few things in common. The film becomes a somewhat special one ... and I was enamored by it. I must warn anybody who likes these types of dramas that there is a HIGHLY explicit sex scene placed in the middle of the film (Jane has to work) that garnered the film an NC-17 rating. That rating was rejected by the director and studio and it was released as an unrated film. It is NOT a tame scene by any means. The entire scene was not necessary and does mar this film because everything shown could easily have been alluded to; but ... I was neither the screenwriter nor the director. Starlets in Hollywood might be a dime a dozen; but this one offers up something special if one can make it to the film's final touching moments. I'd prefer an edit but I'll take what I got here.
November 12, 2012
Starlet gives a deep view into a young blond 21 year old woman living in the North San Fernando Valley.
November 14, 2012
PLEASE don't waste your time or money. Lives up to all of its zero ambitions. Jammed with indie clichés. Nothing of value. Imagine "Foxes" being twice as dull and vacant.
November 10, 2012
Great concept. Well cast.
July 24, 2013
Brilijantno osmisljena prica koja doslovno ocarava do samog kraja. Blockbusteri se mogu sakriti. Velik film...sa dobrom pricom, svjezom... vjerujem ne svakodnevnom, ali nadam se da postoje ovakvi ljudi, iskreni, bez obzira cime se bave i odakle dolaze.
bill s.
December 21, 2013
The characters really grow on you after awhile and the evenhanded direction is a pleasant surprise.
November 8, 2013
Superb!! This might be boring for a few but I liked it. Nice drama. There are some very emotional moments and comic too. The ending is just too good.
Dylan F.
November 3, 2013
An indie pick that's worth the time of day. Well acted and directed.
September 9, 2013
Indie, minimalist, heartfelt, raw - redeeming. Flush with character. Slow paced.
February 9, 2013
It waits until the last ninety seconds, and sneaks up on you. Incredible movie
August 17, 2013
It's indie gems like these that keep me from canceling my Netflix account. Well-developed characters and a genuine storyline redeem a seemingly unpromising premise. Measured direction allows the plot to develop, while keeping you invested in its outcome. Not a perfect movie, but far exceeded my expectations and well worth the watch.
August 15, 2013
This is a film about isolation - how we get there, how we remain there, how hard it is to reverse. In the midst of this are two women, a widow and a porn star (which it takes a while to realize) who find an unlikely friendship. It's sweet and frustrating, and even a little eye-opening.
August 5, 2013
Get past the setup and you'll be rewarded. The film absolutely does not go in the direction you think it goes, and the slow revelations and the surprises, especially their motivations in the end, are worth your time.
July 31, 2013
The movie was an absolute delight. I was on edge all the way through, uncertain what was going to happen next. And funnily enough, seeing this at a film festival, the producer was there to answer questions after the film, and someone asked how he got funding for a movie where 'nothing much happened'. For me, so much happened. I loved the subtlety, the generosity of characters, and the friendship that develops between a grumpy old woman and a somewhat lost but lovely 20 something, was definitely something to behold. A beautiful reminder of how much we still have to offer each other, regardless of our age differences.
Frank R.
July 26, 2013
Good movie that has enough of a sense of reality that it's easy to be drawn into to storyline while rooting silently for both Jane and Sadie to find some solace in each other. There were enough subtle twists that made one feel as if we knew the character well enough to predict their actions with a gentle surprise when the actual result is revealed; thought for sure that Melissa was going to steal the money when Starlet "showed her where it was". The characters were steeped with enough reality that it made the story that much more interesting and easy to relate with, thinking that we all know someone like that in our real lives (the lost kind soul, lonely older neighbor, crazy friend/roommate that's self-righteously forgetful thanks to booze/drugs, a sleazy boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.) As another reviewer mentioned, the film could have benefitted from an additional couple of minutes to truly clarify the intentions and outcome of Sadie's revelation, but the ending as is wasn't bad, just a bit of an "and then...?" type of moment. Worth watching.
July 21, 2013
I came across this on Netflix, and initially thought it was some sort of exploitation film, because the description said there was explicit content. To be sure, there is nudity and what looks to be real sex, but it's a far cry from a T&A flick. This is a great movie. The acting is realistic, the characters have depth, and the story, though it seems slight, truly invested me, and paid off well. Usually I'll check the tomatometer first to see if something is complete suck, but I didn't this time, so I was happy to see that this film was so highly rated. This is a movie about a young sex worker who meets an old lady, and that's all I'm going to say about it. I strongly recommend it.
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