by Jim Ridley
Nashville Film Festival audiences may not know Sean Baker's name right off the bat, but they surely remember his work. His 2004 feature Take Out won the festival's Dreammaker Award, and he returned in 2009 with Prince of Broadway; both are forcefully acted neorealist dramas of immigrant life, distinguished by gritty location shooting and convincing unknown players. His films are well worth seeking out, especially if you're a fan of the Dardenne brothers (The Kid with a Bike) or Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop).
Advance word is strong on his latest, Starlet, which shows one last time tonight 7 p.m. at The Belcourt. A showcase for rising star Dree Hemingway, it's another of the writer-director's fly-on-the-wall character studies. From The Belcourt's website:
STARLET explores the unlikely friendship between 21-year-old aspiring porn actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) and elderly widow Sadie (Besedka Johnson) after their worlds collide in California's San Fernando Valley. 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 provocative, haunting, unpredictable, and surprisingly sweet.
Please report back if you go.