Staring at old ladies maniacally won’t help you hit Bingo.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/09/2012 (limited)
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Stella Maeve, James Ransone, Karren Karagulian
Rated: Not Rated (as it’s cut would probably get a NC-17 due to language and brief but explicit nudity and sexual content)
Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes


I always kick it by the power lines.

I’m beginning to wonder why I even go to so many big, Hollywood films. Sure, some provide a little escapism and there are a few each year that end up being great fun or a fantastic spectacle; but far more often than not, the films that capture a moment in time and truly resonate with me are the small independent films.

Such is the case with “Starlet”. From director/co-writer Sean Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch, the film is about an unlikely friendship between maybe twenty-something Jane (played by Dree Hemingway, Ernest’s great-granddaughter & Mariel’s daughter) and a woman at the other end of life’s timeline, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). They come from separate worlds and each are carrying with them different demons but they find some semblance of solace in one another – even though the manner in which they meet and why they carry-on is built on dishonesty with one another.

Baker doesn’t do anything flashy with the camerawork; this is the product of telling a moving and touching story, but in the most simple and direct manner. It’s the brashness and brokenness of a young woman looking for a connection to someone versus the resignation of an old woman who is getting by almost solely on the routine structure of her life. They are complete opposites and yet that’s what allows the relationship to work.

The performances couldn’t be more perfect. Hemingway captures both the vulnerability and invulnerability of being on your own and so young at the same time. Johnson deftly layers the walls of her character and as she begins to open up, it makes any violations of trust even more heartbreaking. The supporting cast rounds out the world in which Jane works, presenting a peek into the everyday life of an up and coming adult entertainment actress (read between the lines) which was partly inspired by the writers’ work on an MTV show and their experiences with actresses cast on that program.

From a filmmaking aspect, the cinematography and editing components are nicely handled and go along with the vérité style Baker was employing. The music is also quite appropriate, juxtaposing a number of hard-thumping club and hip-hop tracks against softer, ambient material like Manual’s “Keeps Coming Back”.

In short, “Starlet” is a hugely welcome surprise; the kind of film I was wondering if this so-far lackluster year would ever provide. The sincerity of the performances and the completely relatable and poignant story make for one of the best movies of 2012. Unless your only goal in moviegoing is to escape reality, this is a must see and I can’t recommend this highly enough. It won’t get the widest of releases so you may have to track it down but the effort will definitely be worth it.

4.5 out of 5