Always with her Chihuahua Starlet by her side, the drop-dead gorgeous Jane (Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel) sports an array of short shorts, lives in a nondescript, carpeted manor with two pot-smoking, videogame-playing compadres, and doesn’t seem to hold a steady job.(Is she in show business?) Elderly Sadie (Besedka Johnson, cast at a local YMCA), widowed and crotchety, has a constant chip on her shoulder. She dreams of Paris, and gets her kicks losing at Bingo.
The two have a run-in at Sadie’s yard sale, where Jane buys a thermos she thinks will work well as a vase; while cleaning it, she discovers a hidden stash of $10,000. When she goes back to return the money, Sadie pushes her away, brusquely, yet Jane—played by Hemingway with a blend of generosity, innocence, and emotional intelligence—feels the need to keep reaching out. Sean Baker’s rapturously shot, always enthralling feature observes these two women inhabit their spaces, and meditates on the true meaning of friendship.
Baker and his superb actors — including marvelous supporting turns from James Ransone and Stella Maeve — let the rich detail soak in, and permit the dramatic action to unfold with the feeling of time lived. To say more about the intricacies of the well-calibrated script would be giving too much of the fun away, but suffice to say that in the Renoirian Starlet everyone has their reasons.