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Is the Marketing for Starlet a Turn Off for Women?

Is the Marketing for Starlet a Turn Off for Women?

It has become hard for me to go and see movies with my friends because I see so many of them ahead of time for work.  During Thanksgiving week my friends and I were trying to find a movie we could all see together, and after much debate the film that was chosen was Starlet.  I had seen emails for Starlet screenings come into my email box but the film never got onto my list of films to see honestly because of the poster and then the name Starlet just turned me off.

My friends sent me the rave from NY Times and the positive numbers from Rotten Tomatoes.  So off we went and, surprise, the movie turned out to be pretty good.  So good that this week it got the Robert Altman cast award which will be presented at the Independent Spirit Awards in February.

Yet, I have a conflict about the marketing of this film.  One of the reasons I was reticent to see it was that the message I got was that this is a movie about a sex worker named Starlet.  Now Jane (played by Dree Hemingway and Starlet is the dog) is a sex worker (she’s a porn actress), but the film I saw was a touching drama between an older woman Sadie (played by Besedka Johnson) and a young woman.

My other huge complaint to the writers is to ask them why the hell did you have to make this young woman a porn actress?  In the movie I saw I thought she could have been a grocery bagger or a cashier and we still could have had almost the same story. 

If this wasn’t a good movie none of this would matter.  The core audience for this film is older women (but you should all know there are some porn scenes) because it really is a story of an unlikely friendship, but it is not being marketed as such.  It’s a good thing it got good reviews, but the mixed messages still dominate the marketing.  But it is really good and features an actress in her 80s (she might even be older), and when was the last time you saw a really old woman onscreen struggling just to get through the day. 

So if you were turned off initially by the marketing like me I tell you to get over it and see the film because it is worth your time. 

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I really enjoyed Starlet. And while I understand your frustration with the marketing, I actually thought that the way Jane's job was treated was very well done. It shows the porn industry in a rather neutral, though certainly not uncritical light by treating it like what it is: an occupational field. One, certainly, that has its slew of problems and its issues, but in the end, it's a job. And while you ask: why did Jane have to be a porn actress, I say why should she not be?

The screening I attended had an audience talk with cinematographer Radium Cheung afterwards who gave two more reasons for Jane's job: he said that director Sean Baker had worked on a documentary about the adult entertainment industry before shooting Starlet, so it was still present in his mind (and many of the locations and supporting cast are taken directly from there). And secondly, the movie is also very much about the area where it's shot in, which just happens to have a lot of these companies.

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