Two women find unlikely friendship through a series of random events in Sean Baker’s film Starlet. Jane (Dree Hemingway) is a very thin, blond 21-year-old with a carefree attitude and a provocative lifestyle. The story begins when Jane buys a thermos containing $10,000 at the yard sale of an older woman in her eighties, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Jane’s attempt to return the thermos and the money within it are met with Sadie slamming the door in Jane’s face, yelling, “I told you, no refunds!”
Jane’s true character is revealed when she shows her determination to befriend Sadie, initially to relieve herself of guilt by evaluating if Sadie is someone in need of the money she unknowingly lost. Cranky old Sadie rejects Jane’s kindness at first, ironically, because of her suspicion that Jane was trying to scam her out of money. As the film progresses, Sadie warms up to young Jane, and the friendship that ensues climaxes in a heartwarming moment in the car that solidifies the sincerity of Jane’s love for Sadie.
The film’s title, Starlet, is based off of Jane’s adorable little Chihuahua who adds to the heartfelt aspect of the film, but it also hints at Jane’s occupation, which the story is slow to reveal. The film slowly alludes to Jane’s new job acting in porn, and the viewer’s suspicion is verified when a rather lengthy and intense hardcore sex scene on set ensues. Intertwined are conflicts with Jane’s jealous roommate and fellow porn star, Melissa (Stella Maeve) that threaten Jane and Sadie’s friendship.
Despite the raunchy backdrop, the film is a heartwarming portrayal of the contrast between two vastly different generations of women. Baker’s use of pastel colors and long camera shots add to the film’s indie vibe. However, the film’s music, consisting of an instrumental song that reminiscent of the show Intervention, could be better. Hemingway shines as this complex, independent young woman, and Johnson, making her film debut, portrays the elderly, lonely character Sadie brilliantly. The onscreen chemistry between the two women is prevalent and worth checking out, even if only to feel all warm inside for 140 minutes.
Starlet will be released on October 26 in Los Angeles and New York. Check out the trailer: