20
Oct
12

HIFF 2012 Review: Starlet

What is it about guilt that make us ashamed and repentant? I guess you have to be a good person at heart or at least have some type of feelings otherwise people wouldn’t feel remorseful for their wrong doings. But what lengths would you go to repay a debt or to right a wrong? Would you pay a person back? Or would you find another way to make it up to them? Does concealing the fact that you may have wronged a person make things worse? All these questions and more are tackled in Starlet and there don’t seem to be any easy answers.

At its core, Starlet is about the unlikely relationship between Jane, a young twenty-something trying to make ends meet and Sadie, an elderly eccentric woman coping with losing her independence. Their two paths cross when Jane makes a purchase at Sadie’s yard sale. Hidden inside Jane’s purchase, rolls of cash that Sadie doesn’t know about. Once Jane discovers the money, she struggles with what she should do with it.

The drama and heart of the film comes from the interchange between Jane and Sadie. The guilt that Jane feels for taking the money compels her to repay Sadie; though she doesn’t go as far as giving it back to her. What starts off as remorse slowly turns into curiosity as Jane starts finding ways to spend time with Sadie and help her out. If this sounds at all stalker-ish, that’s because it is. At several points early on Jane seemingly pops out of nowhere to help Sadie out, showing up at the store and even at Sadie’s Saturday bingo game. These early encounters are definitely a little funny, but if it wasn’t a movie, it would probably be a little creepy.

Who knew bingo could be so much fun. All the kids are doing it these days.

Many of the conversations and interactions that Jane and Sadie have together are really awkward, but fun to watch from an audience perspective. Sadie is kurt and brash with her responses and over reacts to some of the things that Jane does such as when Jane lets her dog Starlet drink from the same glass that she just did. It utterly shocks Sadie. The back and forth between the two, though sometimes uncomfortable, ultimately forces the both of them to really think about their developing relationship and their lives moving forward. You know the two have really bonded when Sadie describes to Jane the way to get the perfect bowel movement (a big breakfast, no lunch, and a salad for dinner if you were wondering).

Things come to an emotional head about half way through the film when Jane makes Sadie responsible for something of hers when she has to leave for work one weekend. Over the course of her day Sadie just loses track of things which leads her on a search throughout the neighborhood. Beyond potentially losing this new found friendship, being entrusted with this task is something that bears a heavy weight on Sadie as it is a moratorium on whether or not Sadie is too old to be responsible for anything.

An unlikely odd couple friendship if there ever was one.

Of course this relationship wouldn’t be too complex if Jane didn’t have destructive friends and a pretty unconventional occupation–both of which impede on Sadie’s friendship in different ways. Jane’s friends create drama and stress while her job remains secretive. Both put their stress on the newly formed friendship, but in the end its these obstacles that help strengthen it.

Like I said at it’s core this movie is about this friendship between this older woman and this younger kid and the interplay that goes on there. Dree Hemingway has this really great youthful and energetic interaction with her older co-star Besedka Johnson and their on screen chemistry is pretty great. Their scenes together really make the film. Each made their character feel real and authentic and I was hoping that their relationship would last throughout the film.

In the end Starlet does answer some lofty questions about guilt and remorse; but it’s also a movie about relationships, affection, and love . . . takeaways that I think anyone can appreciate.

Starlet will have a second showing at HIFF on Saturday, October 20 and will be in limited release beginning Friday, November 9.

Star rating-3.5/5 // NR* // 103 minutes
*Though it does not currently carry a rating, there is a graphic sex scene in the film which would definitely push it into “R” rating territory.

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