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Sunday, 21 April 2013 12:05

'Starlet' doesn't dazzle but does deliver a solid story

'Starlet' doesn't dazzle but does deliver a solid story filmfest-oldenburg.de
Written by Diane Carson
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Some films entertain by following a likable central character through trials and tribulations or even a fairly ordinary life over a limited period of time. Writer/director Sean Baker's "Starlet" offers one such case, deceptively casual about its meandering storyline, anchored to 21-year-old Jane and set in L.A.

Nothing earth shattering happens, and yet Baker spins a disarmingly pleasant narrative. This extends to the title that playfully misleads because Starlet is not, in fact, Jane, but her sweet, male Chihuahua mix. Jane takes Starlet almost everywhere, though she spends a fair share of her time hanging out with her roommates Melissa and Mikey, preoccupied with drugs and video games. When Jane laments the state of her room but her lack of money, Melissa suggests she visit yard sales for a cheap fix. From there the central relationship emerges when a thermos bought from 85-year-old Sadie yields several wads of high denomination bills.

Daughter of actress Mariel Hemingway and great granddaughter of writer Ernest, Dree Hemingway plays Jane and conveys an aimless character's lack of ambition, one of many piecing together paying, unsavory film jobs. But it's newcomer Besedka Johnson who steals the show as Sadie, vinegary and suspicious when a guilt-ridden Jane shows up again. Never forthcoming about her find of the money, Jane does try to befriend a resistant Sadie, with unexpected developments.

Radium Cheung's cinematography enhances the focus on Jane and Sadie with soft focus shots. Gianluca Licciardi's music and sound lend a fairly unobtrusive backdrop. Note, however, that one brief but explicit X-rated sex scene puts this film in the "for mature audiences only" category. That's too bad because the same context could easily have been communicated without pushing the envelope, especially with the rest of the content PG throughout.

The St. Louis premiere of "Starlet" is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26th through Sunday, April 28th. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.

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