Screened as part of NZIFF 2013

Starlet 2012

Directed by Sean Baker

Twenty-one-year-old Dree Hemingway and 85-year-old newcomer Besedka Johnson star in an unlikely story of an intergenerational friendship in California’s San Fernando Valley. “An empathic, absorbing tale.” — Village Voice

USA In English
103 minutes DCP

Director, Editor


Blake Ashman-Kipervaser
Kevin Chinoy
Francesca Silvestri
Patrick Cunningham
Chris Maybach


Sean Baker
Chris Bergoch


Radium Cheung

Production designer

Mari Yui

Costume designer

Shih-ching Tsou


J.M. Davey
Zach Seivers




Dree Hemingway (Jane)
Besedka Johnson (Sadie)
Stella Maeve (Melissa)
James Ransone (Mikey)
Karren Karagulian (Arash)
Boonee (Starlet)
Michael O’Hagan (Janice)


SXSW, Locarno, London 2012


Jane (Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel, radiant with coltish vitality) is an independent 21-year-old living in California’s San Fernando Valley, getting high, but not as high as her bad ass housemates – or heading out to garage sales with her pet chihuahua Starlet in tow. A puzzling discovery about a vendor, 85-year-old Sadie, makes her very curious about the dour old woman (octogenarian Besedka Johnson, discovered by the filmmakers in an LA gym, in an amazing screen debut). A strangely plausible pas de deux develops.

Much of the pleasure in Sean Baker’s beautifully made (and actually quite closely plotted) drama lies in its apparent looseness, in our own sense of discovery as these two intriguing, unattached, oddly matched women become acquainted.

“The bright sun that blasts through Starlet, a thrillingly, unexpectedly good American movie about love and a moral awakening, bathes everything in a radiant light, even the small houses with thirsty lawns and dusty cars…

Working with the cinematographer Radium Cheung, Baker initially focuses on what separates his characters only to then bring them into harmonious play in the wide-screen frame, which seems to expand as their relationship does. The acuity of his visual style is complemented by his sensitive work with his actresses, whose unforced performances deepen the movie’s emotional realism. A model, Ms Hemingway has appeared in only a few films and is a spectacular find, as is Ms Johnson, a longtime Angeleno making a true, piercing screen debut.” — Manohla Dargis, NY Times