Starlet (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sean S. Baker
Produced by
  • Blake Ashman
  • Sean S. Baker
  • Patrick Cunningham
  • Chris Maybach
  • Kevin Chinoy
  • Francesca Silvestri
Written by
  • Sean S. Baker
  • Chris Bergoch
Music by Manual
Cinematography Radium Cheung
Edited by Sean S. Baker
  • Maybach Cunningham
  • Freestyle Picture Company
  • Cre Film
  • Mangusta Productions
Distributed by Music Box Films
Release dates
  • March 11, 2012 (2012-03-11)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $88,212 (US)[1]

Starlet is a 2012 independent dramatic film by director Sean S. Baker starring Dree Hemingway and newcomer Besedka Johnson. Starlet explores the unlikely friendship between 21-year-old Jane and 85-year-old Sadie, two women whose lives intersect in California's San Fernando Valley.


Jane, who also introduces herself as Tess, is a presumably unemployed young woman who lives in an apartment with her two dysfunctional roommates, Melissa, and Melissa's boyfriend Mikey, and her Chihuahua dog Starlet. Jane decides she wants to personalize her room, but Melissa says the room cannot be painted because Mikey needs it for "shoots". Jane decides to buy new furniture at neighborhood yard sales. After picking up items from other yard sales that day, she comes across an old woman named Sadie, from whom she buys a thermos.

While Melissa and Mikey argue downstairs, she discovers a stash of money in the thermos. After she spends some of the money on extravagant luxuries, she decides to return the money to Sadie. When she goes to Sadie's house to try to return it, Sadie dismisses her before Jane can explain. Jane keeps the money for herself and follows Sadie as the older woman takes a cab to the grocery store. While Sadie is shopping, Jane pays the cab and sends it away so she can offer Sadie a ride, which Sadie reluctantly accepts. The two women spend time together in Sadie's house, and Jane gives her number to a skeptical Sadie and tells her to call her if she needs anything.

Jane then surprises Sadie when she joins her at a bingo game. Jane once again pays off Sadie's taxi so she can drive her home. On the way, Jane asks Sadie about her finances, which prompts Sadie to spray Jane with mace. The two talk to the police and Jane explains that she is just being friendly, then leaves visibly angry. Sadie calls Jane the next day wanting to reconcile after she realizes that Jane was just being a friendly Samaritan. Over the next several days, Jane spends more time with Sadie and learns she is a widow who, despite her love for Paris, has never visited the city.

Melissa is fired from her job, but after Jane convinces their boss to reconsider, he decides to freeze Melissa from work for a month. When Jane shows up for work, the film reveals Melissa and she are adult film stars, and Jane consequently gets a promotion over Melissa. While Jane is at work, she leaves Starlet with Sadie, who loses the dog while tending to her garden. Sadie recovers the dog after a desperate and exhausting search. When Jane arrives to retrieve Starlet, Sadie seems troubled and wants to put an end to their friendship, which upsets Jane.

After having a talk with Melissa, who says she should spend the money on someone she cares about, Jane uses the money to buy two first-class tickets to Paris for Sadie and herself. When Jane tells Sadie of the trip she has planned for them at a bingo game, Sadie refuses to go. Wanting Sadie to go on the trip, knowing she would love it, she convinces Sadie that if she wins at bingo, then Sadie has to go on the trip. Jane buys 25 bingo cards but loses because Sadie wins after a dry spell of a year and a half. Though she lost, Jane still tries to convince Sadie to go, to which she ultimately agrees.

Back at the apartment, Melissa lashes at Jane after finding out she spent all the money on Sadie instead of her. The two engage in a screaming match, and Melissa kicks out Jane. While Jane is at work, Melissa goes to Sadie's house and tells her about the stash of money, which Melissa says is the reason that Jane was being friendly to her. Sadie briefly unpacks her suitcase, then rethinks her action. Later, Jane, ignorant of Sadie's knowledge about the money, picks her up from her home to go to the airport. Sadie tells Jane to stop and deliver flowers at the cemetery to pay tribute to her husband. When Jane places the flowers, she notices the grave of Sadie's deceased daughter alongside her husband. She then returns to the car, and they drive away.


Asa Akira, Manuel Ferrara, Lily Labeau, and Kristina Rose appear as themselves. Zoe Voss appears as Jane/Tess's body double.


Sean S. Baker and Chris Bergoch collaborated on the screenplay for Starlet from November 2010 through summer 2011. Starlet began production in August 2011 and wrapped the following month. The film was shot entirely in Los Angeles. Music Box Films acquired domestic distribution rights to Starlet[2] and released the film on November 9, 2012.[3]


Starlet premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 11, 2012[4] and had its international premiere in main competition at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2012.[3]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 89% of 44 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 7.3/10.[5] Metacritic rated it 74/100 based on 18 reviews.[6] Indiewire called Starlet a "provocative showcase for newcomer Dree Hemingway",[7] and Variety called it "beautifully understated".[8] The Hollywood Reporter added that it "pairs story and setting together perfectly".[9] Movieline wrote that the film was "surprisingly sweet".[10] Indiewire's blog The Playlist wrote that the film "signals the arrival of Dree Hemingway as one to watch".[11] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times made it a "critic's pick" and described it as "a thrillingly, unexpectedly good American movie about love and a moral awakening".[12]


  1. ^ "Starlet". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Music Box picks up Baker's 'Starlet'". Variety. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Locarno Film Festival unveils lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. 11 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Schedule". SXSW 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Starlet (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Starlet". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "SXSW REVIEW: Sean Baker's 'Starlet' a Provocative Showcase for Newcomer Dree Hemingway". IndieWire. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "SXSW REVIEW: STARLET". Variety. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Starlet: SXSW Review". THR. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "SXSW REVIEW: Sean Baker's 'Starlet' a Provocative Showcase for Newcomer Dree Hemingway". IndieWire. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  11. ^ "SXSW '12 Review: Secrets, Revelations & An Unlikely Friendship Emerge In The Compelling 'Starlet'". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (8 November 2012). "Less Than Visible, but Not to Each Other". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 

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