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IN SHORT: Impressive independent film just shy of knocking your socks off.. [Not Rated. 104 minutes]
WARNING: For any parental unit that reads these reviews with their kids, send said kidlets packing *now*. Starlet is situated in some distinctly adult territory. It isn't porn but it is definately not for teens still in high school. And yes, we all know that means all the sixteen year olds will be getting their hands on this film, whether in a theater or on a DVD. Parents, you've been properly advised . . .
Welcome to "The Valley," an area at the north end of the City of Angels, or the professional conglomerate called Hollywood. The Valley is, to a great extent, the LA suburbs. A great place to raise a family (we actually have three generations of cousins in Sherman Oaks...) and the home base for a thriving film making business. All across the Valley, thousands of actors rent studio apartments, if they have money, or rooms in houses that they share with other aspiring film types. Would be directors or producers or camera jockeys and so on. Starlet sets its sights on Jane (Dree Hemingway), an actress who shares her rented house with another actress, Melissa (Stella Maeve) and Melissa's cinematographer boyfriend Mikey (James Ransone). All have work and all are theoretically up and coming in their shared profession.
That profession is Pornography and our starlet Jane is known to her "fans" as Tess Steele, rising star. (She is not the Starlet of the title. "Starlet" is her dog. Cute joke.)
Jane is newly ensconced in a room in a house rented to her by the porn company that she works for. Needing things for her rented room, Jane is told to get stuff cheap at yard sales. Among the things she buys -- a book case. a picture frame. etc -- is an old Thermos jug being sold by a grumpy old woman named Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Jane has no idea what a Thermos is (wow, how times have changed) and thinks it will make a cute vase. Back at home, she cleans it out she discovers that it is filled with money. Rolls and rolls of hundred dollar bills totalling ten grand or so.
Jane decides to make nice with the old lady. Not that she's going to give the money back or anything but, well, there is a bit of the ol' "do the right thing" built into her personality. What we learn about the widow Perkins is what she tells Jane. Her husband was a gambler (cards) who did "very well". She passes the time playing bingo while the city of Los Angeles complains about an overgrown tree in her front yard. Ms. Perkins didn't really want to have a yard sale but the City is insisting that said tree be cut back, along with other yard work, and that costs money. Money like what is in the Thermos...
Jane may have a moral streak within her but she's not about to give the money back, especially when it becomes apparent that the old lady has no idea of what was stashed inside the Thermos. Besides, acting is hard work and, like her roommate Melissa, Jane could be banned from her chosen profession for almost no reason whatsoever.
To be honest, Dree Hemingway has the looks that would make an ordinary man's jaw drop. As a porn starlet, well, we can remember what Ginger Lynn looked like at 18. Horny guys would have gone out of their minds for a porn star with looks. ["Linda Lovelace" didn't become a star because of hers but that's history not to be recounted on a family friendly site. We're toeing a very fine line with this review. We know.] Starlet tries to be realistic. The main story is solid as is the subplot involving the roommate and her boyfriend and the competition in the porn biz. For all of the good intentions and thought that goes into the story, though, the overall film comes out a shade on the dull side.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Starlet, he would have paid . . .
Wait and rent.
And, yes, Dree is related to *that* Hemingway. Great-granddaughter. Just so's you know.
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