by director/co-writer Sean Baker
I'm still trying to figure this film out myself so it's difficult to write about it. And also I'm petrified of self-analysis. I fear that any artist that becomes too aware of motivations and intent will eventually wallow in contrivance. I do hope that if you see Starlet, you'll either love or hate it. Any indifference to it would mean I didn't do my job.
So how about I write about something that happened at a film festival I recently attended? After a screening, an audience member approached me and said that the film reminded him of an adage.
"There are 4 types of people in this world. 1) The person who finds a wallet filled with cash, keeps it and feels great about it. 2) The person who keeps the wallet and feels bad about it. 3) The person who returns the wallet and feels bad about it. 4) The person who returns the wallet and feels great about it."
This adage raises the question, "Which type of person am I?" And this is the question that inspired this film. When I was young, my father's friend found a large sum of money in a hot water bottle at a yard sale. He faced a moral dilemma on whether or not to return the money. This story stuck with me because I wondered what I would do in that situation. Years later, I fictionalized this true event to be the catalyst for bringing two characters together in a screenplay. And through the very hard work and talent of my amazing team, this little question has resulted in a finished film that is being distributed in theaters. Life is crazy.
So if there is one thing I can say about Starlet, I can tell you that this film makes me happy. I love these characters and wish they were real so I could seek them out and hang with them. I am actually able to hang with one of them all the time... my dog Boonee who plays Starlet in the film. (He was type-cast so basically I'm hanging with the character of Starlet.) In the film, he plays the straight man... or straight canine in his case. He sleepily observes all the chaos around him. It seems the character of Starlet is wondering why humans find it necessary to be entrenched in drama. Why we have moral dilemmas. Why we are slaves to pieces of green paper. Why we push away those that love us. Boonee was only a year and a half when he took on the role of Starlet. But I believe he already had enough life experience to pull from. I think he observed me entrenched in unnecessary drama, hustling to pay rent and pushing away those that loved me.
So with that, I hope you love or hate Starlet!