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Starlet: Charming Story of Unlikely Intergenerational Friendship

  • Besedka JohnsonDree Hemingway
  • Drama
  • Out now
  • Sean Baker
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Starlet: Charming Story of Unlikely Intergenerational Friendship

Dree Hemingway – daughter of actress Muriel Hemingway and great-granddaughter of the legendary American author, Ernest Hemingway – makes her debut as the lead in Starlet; a low-key indie film about friendship, humanity and everything in between.

Written and directed by Sean Baker – an American filmmaker who has earned praises and numerous awards for Take Out and Prince of Broadway – Starlet brings forth a story of an unlikely friendship; one that is extremely uncompromising, yet incredibly pure in its depiction of a tale that’s been told many times over. 

Starlet follows Jane (Hemingway); a twenty-something leggy blonde who has recently moved from Florida to LA in search of fame.  The reality of that dream, however, is not so bright and cheery; working in the ‘entertainment’ industry, she lives in the seedy end of LA’s San Fernando Valley with Melissa (Maeve); an obnoxious and whiny friend and co-worker who spends most of her time smoking pot and playing video games with her loser boyfriend, Mikey (Ransone). 

With pet Chihuahua – joyfully named Starlet even though he’s male – Jane spends most of her days walking around in a careless daze.  One day, when searching for some much needed items to decorate her room, she stumbles upon Sadie (Johnson); a no-nonsense, outspoken eighty-five year old woman.  Winning no brownie points for hospitality, Sadie is quick to get Jane off her lawn after she purchases a flower-printed thermos.

Before long, Jane and Sadie are reunited and the twosome – who have am age gap of six decades between them – soon start learning from each other. And as their friendship gradually blossoms into something neither of them knew possible, more disturbing secrets are revealed.

Surprisingly, even though the subject of an unlikely friendship has been revisited on-screen many times before, nothing about Starlet is clichéd; the story is simple and incredibly organic.  Paced beautifully, Starlet goes to great lengths to impress with sun-kissed visuals – courtesy of cinematographer, Radium Cheung – that seem to embody every single scene. There is a certain amount of innocence and youthful optimism that is underlined in the core of the story.

The two leads mesh remarkably well together; Hemingway – who is best-known for walking the runway for famous fashion designers – shows true potential. Her portrayal of a stereotypical LA girl, who leads a pretty directionless life and is seemingly detached from the world,  is charming and captivating and as her complete opposite, Johnson is incredibly endearing. Her blunt and unfussy attitude plays as a façade and the eighty-five year old shines throughout, as her counterpart digs beyond her hard surface.

Starlet is simple, sweet and incredibly inviting; it’s a story about the need we all have as humans to connect and bond to others, in order to survive this crazy game called life

Like This? Try

Take Out (2004), Prince of Broadway (2008), Nous York (2012)

360 Tip

Besedka Johnson was discovered in the ladies' locker room of a gym that she used to go to. It was Johnson's dream to be an actress since she was 15. She made her dream come true for the first time after 70 years but also, sadly, for the last time. Besedka Johnson died on April 4th 2013. 

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