Starlet (2012) - Plot Summary Poster

(I) (2012)


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  • STARLET explores the unlikely cross-generational friendship between 21 year-old Jane (Dree Hemingway), and the elderly Sadie (Besedka Johnson), two women whose worlds collide in California's San Fernando Valley. Jane, an aspiring actress, spends her time getting high with her dysfunctional roommates, Melissa and Mikey (Stella Maeve and James Ransone), while caring for her Chihuahua, Starlet. Sadie, a widow, passes her days alone, tending to her flower garden. After a confrontation between the women at Sadie's yard sale, Jane uncovers a hidden stash of money inside a relic from Sadie's past. Jane attempts to befriend the caustic older woman in an effort to solve her dilemma and secrets emerge as their relationship grows. Director Sean Baker continues in the naturalistic style of his previous films, the award-winning and Spirit Award nominees PRINCE OF BROADWAY and TAKE OUT, capturing the rhythms of everyday life with an authenticity rarely seen in cinema. Featuring a pair of exceptional debut performances by Dree Hemingway (great granddaughter of Ernest and daughter of Mariel) and 85 year-old Besedka Johnson who received a Special Jury Recognition for her performance at SXSW. STARLET is at once provocative, haunting, unpredictable, and surprisingly sweet.

  • An unlikely friendship forms between twenty-one-year-old Jane and the elderly Sadie after Jane discovers a hidden stash of money inside an object at Sadie's yard sale.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Jane, who also introduces herself as Tess (Dree Hemingway), is a presumably unemployed 21-year-old woman who lives in an apartment in Chadworth, Los Angeles with her two dysfunctional, crack-smoking, drug-addicted roommates, Melissa (Stella Maeve), and Melissa's boyfriend Mikey (James Ransone), and her Chihuahua dog Starlet. Jane (who frequently smokes crack with Melissa and Mikey) decides she wants personalize her room, but Melissa says the room cannot be painted because Mikey needs it for "shoots". Jane decides to buy new cheap furniture at neighborhood yard sales. After picking up items from other yard sales that day, she comes across an old woman named Sadie (Besedka Johnson), from whom she buys a thermos.

    While Melissa and Mikey argue downstairs, Jane discovers a stash of money in the thermos in the form of several old $100 bills. After counting it up, it amounts to nearly $10,000. Jane spends some of the money on extravagant luxuries such as a new dog collar for Starlet, as well as expensive manicures and some new clothes, as well as drugs (rock cocaine, pot, pills, etc). However, Jane feels guilty about spending some stranger's money decides to return it to Sadie. When she goes to Sadie's house to try to return it, Sadie dismisses her before Jane can explain on why Jane showed up. Jane decides to keep the money for herself and decides to follow Sadie as she becomes more curious to know more about this her.

    Jane follows the older woman as she takes a taxi to the nearby grocery store. While Sadie is shopping, Jane pays the cab driver and sends it away so she can offer Sadie a ride, which Sadie reluctantly accepts. The two women spend time together in Sadie's house, and Jane gives her phone number to a skeptical Sadie and tells her to call her if she needs anything.

    Another day or two later, Jane then surprises Sadie when she joins her at a bingo game. Jane once again pays off Sadie's taxi so she can drive her home. On the way, Jane asks Sadie about her finances, which prompts Sadie to spray Jane with mace. The two talk to the police and Jane explains that she is just being friendly, then leaves visibly angry.

    Sadie calls Jane the next day wanting to apologize for overreacting after she realizes that Jane was just being a friendly Samaritan. Over the next several days, Jane spends more time with Sadie as they get to know each other. Jane claims that she just moved to California over a year ago from a small town in the Midwest in order to "find herself" and she works as a temp worker. Sadie tells Jane that she has been a widow for 40 years now after her husband, a cumpulsive gambler, died suddenly at age 51. Sadie claims that her late husband died from a heart attack after "drinking himself to death" for the last two years of his life. Saide also shows Jane memmentos of Paris, France, but despite her long life, she has never visited the country or traveled abroad.

    Meanwhile, Melissa is fired from her job, but after Jane convinces their boss to reconsider, he decides to freeze Melissa from work for a month. When Jane shows up for work, it is here that it is revealed that both Melissa and Jane are porn film stars, and Jane consequently gets a promotion over Melissa who frequently shows up completely stoned on the sets and cannot perform.

    While Jane is at a porn convention in nearby Las Vegas for the day (working under her porn alias 'Tess Steele'), she leaves Starlet with Sadie, who loses the dog while tending to her garden. Sadie recovers the dog after a desperate and exhausting search. When Jane arrives later that day to retrieve Starlet, Sadie seems troubled and wants to put an end to their friendship, which upsets Jane.

    After having a talk with Melissa about the money that she found, Melissa says that Jane should spend the money on someone she cares about. Jane uses the money to buy two round-trip first-class tickets to Paris for Sadie and herself. When Jane tells Sadie of the trip she has planned for them at a bingo game, Sadie refuses to go, resenting this further meddling with her life. Wanting Sadie to go on the trip, knowing she would love it, she convinces Sadie that if she wins at bingo, then Sadie has to go on the trip. Jane buys 25 bingo cards but loses because Sadie wins after a dry spell of a year and a half. Though she lost, Jane still tries to convince Sadie to go, to which she ultimately agrees.

    Back at the apartment, Melissa lashes at Jane after finding out she spent all the money on hers and Sadie's airplane tickets to Paris instead of her. The two engage in a screaming match, and Melissa kicks out Jane. While Jane is at work on the porn set, Melissa goes to Sadie's house and tells her about the stash of money, which Melissa says is the reason that Jane was being friendly to her. After Melissa leaves, Sadie briefly unpacks her suitcase, then rethinks her action. Note: It is implied here that Sadie realizes that the money that Jane found in the thermos was Sadie's late husband's money that he won at illegal gambling and hidden it away, with Sadie never realizing its existence until now.

    Later that day, Jane, ignorant of Sadie's knowledge about the money, picks her up from her home to go to the airport for their trip to Paris. Sadie tells Jane to stop and deliver flowers at the cemetery to pay tribute to her husband. When Jane places the flowers, she notices next to the grave of Sadie's husband, Frank Reynolds (1920-1971) is the grave of Sadie's deceased daughter, named Sarah Reynolds (1951-1969). The somewhat shaken Jane then returns to the car, and she and Sadie drive away.

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