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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Starlet [Blu-ray]


(Sean Baker, 2012)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: CRE Film

Video: Music Box



Region: 'A' (untested)

Runtime: 1:43:04.344

Disc Size: 29,352,755,473 bytes

Feature Size: 20,316,002,304 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.00 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: May 7th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 2.4.0:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3265 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3265 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2105 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2105 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



English (SDH), none



• Commentary by Director Sean Baker plus cast and crew

Behind the Yellow Wall: The Making of Starlet (28:30)

• Shooting the Scene (4:07)

• Editing Starlet (3:58)

• At SXSW with the filmmakers (11:57)

• A Conversation With Dree and Besedka (4:53)

• Besedka Johnson Screen Test (5:47)

• The First Rehearsal (3:09)

• Researching Melissa (4:34)

• Theatrical trailer (2:08)





Description: STARLET explores the unlikely friendship between 21 year-old aspiring actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) and elderly widow Sadie after their worlds collide in California's San Fernando Valley. Jane spends her time getting high with her dysfunctional roommates and taking care of her hihuahua Starlet, while Sadie passes her days alone, tending to her garden. After a confrontation at a yard sale, Jane finds something unexpected in a relic from Sadie's past. Her curiosity piqued, she tries to befriend the caustic older woman. Secrets emerge as their relationship grows, revealing that nothing is ever as it seems.


Director Sean Baker continues in the naturalistic style of his previous films, the Spirit Award nominated Prince of Broadway and Take Out, capturing the rhythms of everyday life with a rare authenticity. Featuring 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 at SxSW, Starlet is at once provocative, haunting, unpredictable, and surprisingly sweet.



The Film:

In addition to creating "Greg the Bunny," Sean Baker has had a remarkable second career as a director of small, neorealistic character studies: "Prince of Broadway" was a moving father-son story set in New York's Chinatown, while "Take Out" dealt with the plights of Chinese immigrants. His third feature, "Starlet," follows two women of different ages and backgrounds thrown into an unlikely situation together in the San Fernando Valley. Expect Baker's typical blend of low key narrative and emotional weight to lead the way.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The bright sun that blasts through “Starlet,” a thrillingly, unexpectedly good American movie about love and a moral awakening, bathes everything in a radiant light, even the small houses with thirsty lawns and dusty cars. This isn’t nowhere, but it’s right next door — in that part of Southern California known as the San Fernando Valley, more commonly called the Valley. A seemingly endless stretch of subdivisions and McMansions, the Valley lies far below the rarefied heights of Mulholland Drive, that glamorous crest that helps divide the Los Angeles area into distinct swaths, economic realities, lifestyle choices and states of mind.

It’s there that a 21-year-old actress who sometimes goes by Jane and sometimes Tess (Dree Hemingway) lives with her Chihuahua and two conspicuously less intelligent human roommates in an apartment building so anonymous it might as well be a motel. She leads a luxuriously drifty existence, or so it seems, with an open suitcase on her bedroom floor, its contents chaotically half-disgorged, and no apparent job or prospects. If she’s worried, she doesn’t look it. As she drives around, she seems oblivious to the effect she can have on others, insulated by those natural armaments called beauty and youth. When she smiles, she distills a quality that Henry James evoked in describing Daisy Miller and her “inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence.”

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Starlet looks to have been shot on HD and comes to Blu-ray from Music Box Films.  The film was shot entirely in Los Angeles over the course of a month from August to September 2011. It has some of the weaknesses of the newer format with brightness flaring but the film is shot with a very natural intent and this verité sensibility comes through well.  It sneaks into dual-layered territory but retains a modest bitrate and has the sharpness of HD and some impressive depth. Some of the film has a green cast that is probably accurate to the production. This Blu-ray probably looks just like the film The Starlet and it gave me a worthy presentation.

















Audio :

Choice between two DTS-HD Master tracks - one in 5.1 surround at 3265 kbps and a second in 2.0 channel stereo at 2105 kbps. This is essentially dialogue-driven with few effects but you get some separation in the Bingo parlor, and the audio transfer seems competent in relating the film's sound with some verité scattering. All was clear and there are optional English subtitles available. Most Music Box films Blu-rays (to my knowledge) have been region FREE - but I am unsure whether this follows the pattern so we will have to put Region 'A'-locked for now.


Extras :

Supplements are bountiful by Music Box with a forthright commentary by director Sean Baker plus cast and crew chipping in. It is relaxed and enjoyable focusing on certain scenes and recollections. We also get an extensive 'Making of...' entitled Behind the Yellow Wall. It runs for shy of 1/2 an hour and has many of the principals giving sound bytes. There are brief videos - Shooting the Scene (4:07), Editing Starlet (3:58), and entertaining Conversation With Dree and Besedka for about 5-minutes and a piece filed at the annual SXSW (South by SouthWest Independent Film Conference) with the filmmakers (3 sections, Baker, Bree, Besedka). There are a couple of screen tests and a rehearsal (which may be overkill) and lastly a theatrical trailer.



To be blunt - I think Starlet is a pretty good film and definitely shows some promise for all involved. I always tend to look at pacing when I see Indie films and this is wonderfully realized. Cute, human, touching. The Blu-ray has adequate a/v and some valuable extras. If you are open to this intentionally understated experience - I suggest giving it a spin. Fans of such should keep your eyes peeled for Asa Akira. I enjoyed Starlet much more than I was anticipating.

Gary Tooze

April 29th, 2013


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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