Thursday, November 8, 2012

Starlet - Another Hemingway Woman stands out

Update: Starlet opens today, Friday December 7, at the Chez Artiste.

There must be something in the genes, at least for the women, descended from Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest's great granddaughter, Dree Hemingway is the latest to display wonderful acting talent.

In Sean Baker's Starlet, which screened this week at the Starz Denver Film Festival, Hemingway plays Jane, a 21 year old - flaky in a Legally Blonde kind of way - Porn Queen living on the edge in the 'beautiful' west San Fernando Valley. She and her chihuahua named Starlet, share an apartment with a drugged-out fellow sex worker, Melissa (Stella Maeve) and Melissa's porn-promoter, wannabe boyfriend, Mikey (James Ransone).

Wanting to fix up her room (she needs to make it feel more like a home?) she stops at a yard sale, where she buys a beautifully decorated thermos that she thinks is a vase. When she gets back to her room she discovers several tightly wrapped rolls of hundred dollar bills inside.

Ambivalent about what exactly to do about the money but curious, she returns to the site of the yard sale. She asks the elderly woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson) from whom she bought the thermos about it. Sadie, caustic and suspicious, says that there is no refund. Jane, trying to not be too forthcoming, says she doesn't want a refund she is just curious. She finds excuses to linger around the house - “Can I have a glass of water? -exasperating the old woman.

As time goes on, Jane finds ways to run into Sadie, at the grocery store, at Saturday bingo sessions, etc.

An unlikely friendship develops between the lonely, widowed Sadie and Jane who is craving family - after finding the money she calls her mother in Florida telling her she will pay to fly her to California so the can see each other, her mother refuses.

Dree Hemingway, the daughter of Mariel and niece of Margaux is wonderful in this low-budget ($250,000) SAG Indie film, as is Besedka Johnson in a debut performance. The 87 year-old Johnson was 'discovered' at a YWCA and thought the casting was a joke. Her performance is no joke.

While there is a very explicit sex scene - Jane, shooting a porn-video - the characters' involvement in the Adult film industry is incidental to the story. It is a very sweet, naturalistic film about human wants and needs. It is about the secrets we all harbor, which often enhance and strengthen the sometimes odd friendships that can sustain us.

Sean Baker's direction and the performances of Hemingway and Johnson draw us in and make us care about these people and what happens to them. The supporting cast is terrific as well.

Starlet, from Music Box Films is scheduled to open in Denver December 7 at a Landmark Theatre.

SAG Indie is an organization devoted to facitlitating the use by low-budget film makers, of SAG (now SAG-AFTRA) professional actors It is supported by the Screen Actor's Guild-Producers Industry Advancement & Cooperative Fund.

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