Starlet (2012) – USA / UK

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 12th March 2014

Directed by: Sean Baker
Starring: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson

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“Starlet” is one of those films that waits for you to embrace it, before totally overwhelming the audience with strong emotions and a thought-provoking finale. I really enjoyed this film and the best thing about it, is the manner director / writer Sean Baker goes about his business, without being flashy, pretentious, but simply creating the right moments for the actors to shine. Baker constantly allows and lingers on the actor’s facial expressions, their detail interactions and especially a sweet little story focusing on the young Dree Hemingway and the old granny Besedka Johnson. Despite the fact that Dree Hemingway works in the porn industry and scream out during explicit sex scene, nothing is ever over-done or over-cooked. In fact, Dree is able present a multi-facet performance, where she is able separate her work as a porn star and going about every life with her beloved puppy dog “Starlet” and her “sort-of” redemption of being indirectly being in possession of Besedka Johnson’s long lost money. “Starlet” is a beautiful little film that is able to capture the youth, the drugs, the sex, the life, the relationships and ultimately a story about two very different people, from a huge generation gap and how they grew closer. This is a wonderful film for the ages.

Considering this is a debut performance from the late Besedka Johnson, who shot the film when she was 85 years old. Johnson is simply wonderful and never over-acts. Her fragile figure belies a story to tell and her interactions with Dree Hemingway essentially made the film a success. Dree Hemingway is light-hearted and despite being around her best friend Stella Maeve who is totally drugged up and used up in the porn industry, Hemingway comes off rather loving and in fact, the most realistic character. Everyone have their struggles and the way she wants to discover the life of an unknown old granny is fascinating and believable to watch. Soon, we almost forgotten about the cash that she that took from the garage sale and instead we enjoy the performances of the two.

All in all, “Starlet” is wonderful little film that never fails to grow onto the audience. Like Dree, we are fascinated by Besedka Johnson’s old age and going her everyday life. The dog “Starlet” adds to the humor and some cute giggles and moments, but ultimately it is the relationship between the two different characters that made the film a joy to endure. “Starlet” succeeds in exploring the notion of humanity, friendship, redemption as well as perhaps suggesting a 2nd chance. A film for all ages and one that easily stays with you. (Neo 2014)

I rated it 8/10


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