Starlet (film)

Starlet is a 2012 independent drama film directed by Sean Baker and 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.

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


Jane, who also introduces herself as Tess, is a young woman who lives in an apartment with 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. At one such sale 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. She spends some of the money on extravagant luxuries, but then decides to return the money to Sadie. Sadie, however, dismisses Jane before she can explain. Sadie takes a cab to the grocery store; Jane follows, pays and sends away the cab, and offers Sadie a ride home. The two women spend time together in Sadie's house; Jane gives her number to a skeptical Sadie and tells her to call her if she needs anything.

Jane later surprises Sadie by joining her at a bingo game. Once more paying off Sadie's taxi, she drives her home and asks her about whether she wins at bingo. Sadie responds by spraying Jane with mace. After a talk with the police, Jane leaves visibly angry. Sadie calls Jane the next day to reconcile; the two spend some time together and Jane learns that Sadie, a widow, loves Paris but has never visited the city.

Melissa is fired from her job where the pair are adult film stars. Jane convinces their boss to suspend Melissa for a month instead, and Jane consequently gets a promotion. 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.

Melissa, advises Jane to spend the money on someone she cares about, so Jane buys two first-class tickets to Paris for Sadie and herself. Sadie, however, refuses to go. Jane buys 25 Bingo cards and makes a deal with Sadie that if she wins at bingo, Sadie will go on the trip. Jane loses because Sadie herself wins the game; Sadie ultimately agrees to go on the trip anyway.

Back at the apartment, Melissa finds out that Jane has spent all the money on Sadie instead of her. The two engage in a screaming match, and Melissa kicks Jane out and later tells Sadie about the stash of money. Sadie briefly unpacks her suitcase, but then rethinks her action. Later, Jane, ignorant of Sadie's knowledge about the money, picks her up to go to the airport. Sadie asks Jane to stop at the cemetery to leave flowers on the grave of her husband, and Jane notices the nearby grave of Sadie's deceased daughter. 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 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.[2] Music Box Films acquired domestic distribution rights to Starlet[3] and released the film on November 9, 2012.[4]


Starlet premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 11, 2012[5] and had its international premiere in main competition at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2012.[4]


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.[6] Metacritic rated it 74/100 based on 18 reviews.[7] Indiewire called Starlet a "provocative showcase for newcomer Dree Hemingway",[8] and Variety called it "beautifully understated".[9] The Hollywood Reporter added that it "pairs story and setting together perfectly".[10] Movieline wrote that the film was "surprisingly sweet".[8] 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]


The film won the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast at the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards.[13]


  1. ^ "Starlet". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  2. ^ "Golden Girls: Sean Baker’s Starlet". Cinema Scope, By Adam Nayman
  3. ^ "Music Box picks up Baker's 'Starlet'". Variety. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Locarno Film Festival unveils lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. July 11, 2012.
  5. ^ "Schedule". SXSW 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "Starlet (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  7. ^ "Starlet". Metacritic. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "SXSW REVIEW: Sean Baker's 'Starlet' a Provocative Showcase for Newcomer Dree Hemingway". IndieWire. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  9. ^ "SXSW REVIEW: STARLET". Variety. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  10. ^ "Starlet: SXSW Review". THR. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  11. ^ "SXSW '12 Review: Secrets, Revelations & An Unlikely Friendship Emerge In The Compelling 'Starlet'". IndieWire. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (November 8, 2012). "Less Than Visible, but Not to Each Other". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  13. ^ "Starlet - Robert Altman Award - 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards". Film Independent. YouTube. February 28, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

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