Directed By: Sean S. Baker

Starring: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Stella Maeve, James Ransone, and Karren Karagulian

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you found some large sum of money by chance?  Would you head straight to the bank?  Would you hit the mall?  If you knew the person to whom it belongs, would you return it?  You’re probably thinking all the politically correct things right now.  While it all seems clear when you talk about this in the hypothetical, it may not be so clear if and when you actually find some money.  For most of us, we might just find twenty bucks on the streets.  For some lucky few, some real cash might be a serious temptation.  In Sean S. Baker's Starlet, 21-year-old Jane just happens to be one of those lucky few.

Jane (Dree Hemingway) has just moved to the Valley and is now living with her friend Melissa (Stella Maeve) and her boyfriend Mikey (James Ransone).  She's renting a room in their house and needs to decorate her new living area.  She decides to go to some yard sales to pick up some stuff.  At a nearby sale hosted by an elderly woman named Sadie (Besedka Johnson), she purchases a thermos that will change her life.  Jane wants to use the thermos as a vase.  When she puts some flowers in it, she just happens to find $10,000 cash inside.

Jane now faces a moral dilemma and must decide whether she'll return the cash.  She consults Melissa about it with a hypothetical question.  The pill-popping oxy addict says that she would return the money only if the person actually needed it.  Consequently, Jane decides to go back to Sadie's home and try to befriend her to see whether she actually needs the money.  As she gets to know this cranky old lady, she finds that Sadie doesn't necessarily need it.  What she really needs is a friend, and Jane can be that friend.  Meanwhile, Jane begins her career as a porn star while Melissa's career in the industry dwindles.  Mikey is also planning a surprise for the two of them.

Starlet is one funny film.  In Dree Hemingway's Jane, we've got a girl who finds some cash.  In Besedka Johnson's Sadie, we've got a grumpy old rich widow who loves her bingo games.  We've even got a little chihuahua named Starlet and a surprisingly thorough introduction to the booming porn industry outside of Los Angeles.  All in all, Starlet is rife with comedic material, and director Sean S. Baker uses it to the best of his ability.  There are plenty of laughs throughout this indie flick.

In its more serious moments, Starlet poses some interesting moral questions.  It even arguably blurs the lines between right and wrong.  They all revolve around Jane and this relationship she's building with Sadie because of the huge sum of cash she discovered in that thermos.  It's no longer just about returning the money.  The moral dilemma concerns whether friendship built on a false pretense is something worth fostering.  It also concerns whether it's right for Jane to pay back Sadie in kindness rather than good old American dollars.  Starlet is a film that simply poses these questions.  It doesn't really answer them concretely, but no indie ever does.  Morality is completely open to interpretation.

The actors deliver decent performances.  Dree Hemingway and Besedka Johnson gradually build good chemistry throughout the film.  While they're not the world's greatest actresses, they get the job done.  The same can be said for supporting cast members Stella Maeve and James Ransone.

Starlet is a fun, simple movie that will certainly charm you.  Though it starts off fairly slowly, it will gradually enthrall you more and more.  Whether bringing the laughs, posing some interesting ethical questions, or giving you a thorough introduction to the business of pornography, this film will definitely hold your attention.  Starlet gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Merlot with this one.