Sean Baker‘s Starlet, which will premiere at South by Southwest, takes its title from the name of a Chihuahua owned by the lead character, Jane (Dree Hemingway), an aimless San Fernando Valley youth. This indicates, of course, that the film is committed to an oblique strategy of sorts as it conveys…how do I know what it conveys? It’s about Jane and her no-account doper friends and an 85 year-old woman (Besedka Johnson) and a stash of cash.
In real life the only people who smoke are the really young, the lower-middle and lower classes, the anxiety-ridden, the self-destructives, the jerkoffs, losers and wipeouts. But in filmed dramas (i.e., definitely not comedies), almost all young actors smoke. Constantly. Because it gives them something to do with their hands, and because directors want them to feel steady and confident as they’re delivering lines. In short, smoking by actors is a mark of creative insecurity and weakness. The more people smoke in a film, the less I’m inclined to go with it.
It is obligatory, of course, that all publicity efforts and promotional materials must not only ignore but flirt with suppressing the facts about a young actress’s lineage, if she happens to have one of any note. Because the idea of a young person born with a silver spoon always stirs resentment. Ms. Hemingway, as you might have guessed, is a great-granddaughter of Papa, and the daughter of Mariel Hemingway. She’s 24, 5’9″ tall, and a beneficiary of classical Shakespearean acting training at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Perhaps in some way this background has foritified her portrayal of a white-trash girl in Starlet, but not likely.