Strange things (Starlet movie review)

“Starlet”, directed by Sean Baker, is a story of an unusual friendship between 21-year old Jane (Dree Hemingway) and 85-year-old Sadie (Besedka Johnson) – two women whose roads collide unexpectedly in California. Jane is busy mainly with drugs, friends, and taking her of her Chihuahua. Sadie, a widowed, lonely old woman, likes to spend time in her garden. They meet during the garage sale organized by Sadie. Jane finds money that was hidden in one of Sadie’s things. She doesn’t know how to reacts so she decides to get closer to the old lady. They start to be friends, but the more they talk, to more secrets arise…

What’s interesting, “Starlet” is a debut of Besedka Johnson – an amazing actress, who brings to the movie humour and naturalness. Every time she appearance on the screen could be described as a feast for the soul and the eye, because Johnson gives to her character both – wisdom and hypnotizing warmth that sometimes turn into irony or some kind of acrimony, which – what’s important – makes her rather more realistic than unfriendly. The director manages to build the dramaturgy of the movie in a very convincing and engaging way. We observe how old lady’s aversion (that is performed by Johnson with charm and without exaggeration or needless gestures) slowly turns into trust.

Sean Baker composes his movie of scenes of everyday life – the action takes place in between ordinary activities, but at the same time reveals threads that are unexpected and surprising.  Both women have their own secrets and in there is a lot of mystery in their biographies that cannot be seen at first glance. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the movie is created in a way that makes you predict that not everything is exactly what it looks like. Some dose of anxiety is constantly presented in the air. The director knows how to spread the tension and balance the emotions and because of that the viewers won’t be overwhelmed and will enjoy the beauty of this simple story and of wonderful shots that give the impression of calmness. That’s why moments in which harmony is disrupted can be really shocking and moving.

“Starlet” is a movie that could be described as funny (mostly because of amazing Johnson), bitter and heart-worming at the same time. It can make you smile, but on the other hand – it can shock you too. What’s important, this ambiguity doesn’t make it incoherent or fetched. On the contrary – the poetics of strong turns out to be the best what the director could use to tell this story.  On the visual side “Starlet” can be watched as a postcard from Paris because all scenes are perfectly composed and truly charming.

“Starlet” is not a perfect movie – Johnson’s character steals the screen and overshadows not only less important figures, but also second protagonist. The action as whole is convincing, but some scenes smack of naivety. Nevertheless, a lot can be forgiven, beca