There are a lot of films bout trying to “make it” in Los Angeles. The ups and downs and cruelty that actors endure. It’s done so often, in fact, that it is rarely done right. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes is the first film in years to get it right before taking those narrative expectations and turning them on their ear.
Starry Eyes is the story of Sarah (Alex Essoe), an actress who is struggling to find her way in the big city without much luck. She has a support group but with the exception of Tracy (Amanda Fuller), the girls aren’t very supportive. The worst is Erin (Fabianne Therese), a fellow actress who never stops stepping on Sarah’s self esteem. Sarah keeps going though, finally landing an audition at a (formally) prestigious studio. The audition is a nightmare scene that illustrates just what it feels like to go up in front of casting agents that have seen dozens of actors and really don’t care who you are or what you have to say. As can be expected, the audition goes badly and Sarah ends up in a restroom stall, pitching a fit and pulling out her hair. When she is caught by the female casting agent, she is ushered back to the room to show them more. They want to see her pitch a fit in front of them. Sarah bows to the embarrassing request and indulges them. This leads to a call back and a meeting with the big producer.
In a large and warm home, Sarah meets The Producer (Louis Dezseran). The film he describes, cleverly, is really the film you are watching, which gives the whole experience a meta flavor to it. It blurs the lines for a moment in the best way possible. Though reluctant to do what it takes to get the part (The Producers sexual advances are rebuffed), she soon comes around when she realizes that the alternative is doing a friends little film and continuing to work at Big Taters, the Hooters style restaurant owned by Carl (Pat Healy). The Producer promises that the film will make her into everything she ever wanted but there must be sacrifice. From this point Sarah slips into a living nightmare that she nor her friends may make it out alive.
Starry Eyes is a hauntingly resonate film that rings with truth in the first half and cutting metaphor in the second. Like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive this is a film about the destructive nature of Hollywood on the frail and weak, and like that film, I hold Starry Eyes in high regard. The emotional wreckage that is Sarah’s mind is terrifyingly real and disturbing to watch. When the film slips into horror, it is a smooth transition that packs a punch you won’t walk away from.
Alex Essoe shines with eerie perfection as Sarah. She manages to walk the line of being both weak and strong without either seeming out of character. The rest of the cast is solid, with Amanda Fuller (Red, White, and Blue reviewed HERE), a particular standout as usual. Also of interest is Pat Healy (The Innkeepers reviewed HERE) as her boss at Big Taters, Carl. Healy takes what could have been a throw away part and made it real. Carl is a good guy with an honest jog. It may not be glamorous, but it’s his. His small speech to Sarah is truthful and packs a lot of sincerity.
The film wears its influences on its sleeve in the best way, from David Lynch to the Satanic Panic films of the seventies. Film making team Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have hit it out of the park with this one, creating a story that any entertainer can relate to and sympathize with before having the rug pulled out from under them. On top of that, the blood shed in the final act may be cathartic for some, after all, who knows what lurks in the hearts of wounded with starry eyes .