Thursday, April 23, 2015

#1,711. Starry Eyes (2014)

Directed By: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan

Tag line: "She would kill to be famous"

Trivia: Nick Simmons, who plays Ginko in the film, is the son of Gene Simmons from the band KISS

How far would you go to make your wildest dreams come true? What would you be willing to sacrifice? Anything? Everything? These are the questions that Sarah (Alex Essoe), a struggling actress trying to make a name for herself in L.A., must answer. You see, someone has just presented her with the opportunity of a lifetime, but before she can snatch it up, she’s gonna have to do a little soul searching. And depending on which direction she goes, it may be the last time Sarah has a soul to search.

Like thousands of young women looking to break into movies, Sarah can’t get her foot in the door. She spends her days working at a quirky restaurant (in a uniform that’s skin-tight), then dedicates her free time to furthering her “career”, going from one audition to another and sending her resume and headshot to every producer in town. One day, she gets a call to read for a part in a new horror film titled The Silent Scream, a movie being produced by Astraeus Pictures, which, over the years, has turned its share of young hopefuls into stars. But after pouring her heart into the audition, the casting director (Maria Olsen) and her associate (Marc Senter) send Sarah on her way with a dismissive “We’ll get back to you”. Believing she blew it, Sarah runs to the restroom and, in a fit of anger (directed at herself), starts pulling her own hair. What she doesn’t know is that the casting director is just outside the bathroom stall, listening to her tantrum. When Sarah walks out, the casting director immediately brings her back into the office, and all at once, Sarah is the frontrunner for the part. Following another very strange audition, she’s invited to the producer’s house (Louis Dezseran), but when she realizes she’s expected to have sex with him, Sarah decides enough is enough and storms out, ending any chance she has at landing the role.

Her friends, including roommate Tracy (Amanda Fuller) and director wannabe Danny (Noah Segan), tell Sarah that she did the right thing, that her dignity is more important than any role, no matter how big it might be. Even the overly-competitive Erin (Fabianne Therese), who undermines Sarah’s confidence every chance she gets, is behind her on this one. Her dreams shattered, Sarah agrees to play a role in a movie that Danny is making on his own, one that will also feature Tracy, Erin, and the rest of their friends. Yet through it all, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that she might have made a mistake. Maybe she should have given in and let the producer have his way with her. If that’s what it takes to make it big in Hollywood, why not? After all, isn’t fame and fortune the ultimate goal? Isn’t that what everyone wants? What Sarah does next will change her life in ways she never imagined.

Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, Starry Eyes feels a lot like a David Lynch film, especially the scenes where Sarah is “auditioning” for the lead role in The Silent Scream (her first callback, where she enters the room and, with a spotlight trained on her, is told to disrobe, had a vibe reminiscent of Lynch’s Mulholland Dr.). Such moments are further enhanced by Alex Essoe, whose performance strikes the perfect balance between ambition and despair. After rejecting the producer’s sexual advances, Sarah finds herself back among her friends. Yet, for some reason, she sees them in a much different light this time around. Before, Tracy, Danny, and the others used to act as Sarah’s support group, picking her up when she fell and offering the words of encouragement she desperately needed. Having come so close to achieving the success the rest of them could only dream of, Sarah suddenly views them all as anchors weighing her down, life’s losers spinning their wheels on the road to nowhere. Not wanting to end up like Tracy and the rest, Sarah knows what she has to do, and the remainder of Starry Eyes shows us the consequences of her actions. While we don’t always agree with Sarah’s decisions, Ms. Essoe’s stunning performance ensures that, at the very least, we understand why she made them in the first place.

As much an exposé of the Hollywood star system as it is the story of one girl’s quest for fame, Starry Eyes features a number of disturbing scenes, most of which occur late in the movie, after Sarah has decided what course of action she’s going to take. It’s in these moments that the film’s true horror shines through, shaking us to our core as we watch Sarah deal with a bizarre turn of events. Combining practical effects with often shocking imagery, Starry Eyes is a terrifying glimpse into an actress’s psyche, not to mention one hell of a potent horror movie.

No comments: