Page 1 of 3
Dree Hemingway helps breathe life into this slight yet forceful indie drama....
Music Box / 103 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: May 7, 2013
Jane (Dree Hemingway) is just another twentysomething trying to figure her way through the modern world. She’s short on cash, unsure as to her ambitions in life, not trusting of men who show interest in her: she’s a leaf floating down the river toward the sea. And this obliqueness isn’t exclusive to Jane alone. Every on-screen member of Starlet appears with a vague, hazy character presence – things here are understated to a fault.
This brings into discussion the major push/pull of the movie’s success. One on hand, Starlet is mumblecore mediocrity, a pseudo-Baumbach pastiche of Generation Y cliché and postmodern cheekiness, yet on the other, there’s some really fulfilling and subtle cinematic elements at work here. Hemingway’s performance in the lead role is a perfect lightning rod for this: she’s hampered by some of the script’s overt platitudes (that often inspire groans), but somehow, she paints the character at hand with surprisingly gravitas and uniqueness.
Starlet’s all about money. Jane lives in ‘The Valley’, and goes about her meager life, sharing a house with two do-nothing stoners and a dog (named Starlet) who is plainly her favorite living creature. Upon cruising some yard sales in her neighborhood, Jane finds a thermos that – by using her hipster talents – she figures she could use as a killer vase. When she opens said thermos, though, there are wads of cash inside, and so begins a journey that turns Jane’s life and times upside down.
This isn’t the kind of movie that one feels implicitly comfortable defending as a whole – it takes the easy way out dramatically way more often than it should – but there is a beating heart underneath Starlet’s narrative artifice. Hemingway is a natural-born performer (she surely takes after mother Mariel), and the drifting uncertainty of the world presented in the film is often evocative and engaging. It’s not a perfect expression of youthful ennui, but it nevertheless connects more often than one might expect.