An Unlikely Friendship

December 7, 2013

Starlet is a rich and insightful film that traces the development of an unlikely friendship between two women separated by 64 years of life. Jane (Dree Hemingway), a 21 year old who is adrift and newly finding her way in Los Angeles, first meets Sadie (Besedka Johnson), an 85 year old crusty-tempered widow, at Sadie’s yard sale where Jane buys an old but decorative thermos to use as a flower vase. When Jane gets home and cleans out the thermos, she discovers $10,000 in rolled up $100 bills inside. This event starts us down a long and rocky road of ethical questions mixed with a gradually developing relationship between the two women.

Jane’s first decision, after absorbing the shock of this windfall discovery, is to call her mother back in Florida with an offer to provide a plane ticket to come and visit her in Los Angeles. Her mother declines, and in this very brief scene, we see from Jane’s demeanor that she is disappointed but also used to and steeled against such dismissal. We next see her on a shopping spree, buying, among other things, a gem studded leash halter for her male Chihuahua, named Starlet. (Starlet is a constant presence in the film, and Jane’s care and love for him is one of the marks of her maturity and is also indicative, it turns out, of the lack of a trusting relationship with another person in her life.) Her next response to finding the windfall cash is to question whether she should return the rest of the money. She goes back to Sadie’s house, but before she can explain, Sadie brusquely dismisses her with “I said, no returns, so what are you doing here? Goodbye!” and closes the door. But Jane is persistent and finds a way to encounter Sadie again, as if by chance, at the grocery store. Instead of broaching the issue of the money in the thermos, however, she offers her a ride home and then insists on helping her bring the groceries in the house. Sadie is wary and impatient when this intruding young woman lingers and attempts some conversation, but she remains marginally polite as Jane continues her somewhat awkward bid at getting to know Sadie more during this visit to her house.

Read full review in The Gerontologist