tue 31/03/2020

DVD: Starlet | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Starlet

DVD: Starlet

Informal, unlikely tale of Californian cross-generational contacts

Across the generations: the wonderful Besedka Johnson plays bingo with Dree Hemingway, right

“Only connect!” might be the unexpected motto for this Hollywood Hills story – hard to call it a drama – from writer-director Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway). Because the worlds coming into contact in Starlet could hardly be more different: think, albeit with a generous pinch of salt, Legally Blonde mixing with an unhappy singlular version of On Golden Pond.

“Only connect!” might be the unexpected motto for this Hollywood Hills story – hard to call it a drama – from writer-director Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway). Because the worlds coming into contact in Starlet could hardly be more different: think, albeit with a generous pinch of salt, Legally Blonde mixing with an unhappy singlular version of On Golden Pond.

Jane, played by newcomer Dree Hemingway (daughter of Mariel, for what it’s worth) has transplanted, complete with her titular chihuahua, from Florida to the San Fernando Valley to pursue what we might assume will be studies. Though as the pic opens she seems to be very much on vacation, doing precious little, in intermittent company of her druggy, even more lethargic housemate and the latter’s rather threatening b/f. Only at half way point do we learn – plot spoiler! though a minor one – that she’s actually majoring, apparently with some success, in the porn biz.

the Slavic roots of her first name mean 'little conversation', which is roughly what this film is

The film begins its emotional involvement when Jane’s shopping meanderings take her to a local yard sale, and the acquisition of a thermos, or vase (vaiz in the local lingo, of course) – it depends what you do with it – from a somewhat cantankerous senior, Sadie (Sadie is played by the impressive non-pro, the appropriately-named Besedka Johnson: the Slavic roots of her first name mean “little conversation”, which is roughly what this film is). Jane’s discovery that said thermos-vaiz contains wads of dollars confronts her with a dilemma.

No surprise that her first reaction is to start spending it. Rather more surprise, though, that it pushes Jane towards deeper contact with the widowed Sadie, whose late gambler husband’s stash has clearly been mislaid, though she's unaware of it. Sadie’s suspicious at first when she’s practically stalked around her usual supermarket and bingo excursions, but gradually a sense of emotional connection kicks in. For reasons that we only come to guess at in Starlet’s very closing turn, when any emotional heft actually resounds.

The lack of extras on this release seems curiously appropriate: it’s a movie you either take to instinctively, or dismiss as empty, rather on a ranking with its junior heroine. The ambling California locations and interiors shot by (the no-less wonderfully named) Radium Cheung give it plenty of sunny indie charm. But though Sadie gets the acclaim that she’s “one tough cookie to read”, the same can’t be said of Hemingway’s character – or, finally, of the film itself.

Overleaf: Watch the trailer to Starlet

Think 'Legally Blonde' mixing with an unhappy singular version of 'On Golden Pond'

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters