Starry Eyes

07/03/2020 11:27

Film: Starry Eyes

Year: 2014

Director: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer

Writer: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe Amanda Fuller and Noah Segan



This was a movie that I missed checking out as it was during an odd time for me. I was no longer working at Family Video and didn’t really have my finger on the pulse of new movies that were coming out. When I got into listening to podcasts, this is one that would come up quite a bit so it made my list of films I really needed to check out. This was decided for a new side podcast that I’m doing, Side Quest, as a movie Jake and I would cover so I jumped on the chance to give it a viewing for that. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis is a hopeful young actor uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.

For this movie, we start with Sarah (Alex Essoe) looking at herself in the mirror. She is in her underwear and judging herself quite harshly. Sarah is an aspiring actor that works at a local restaurant called Big Taters. It is like a Hooters, but they specialize in selling potato products. Her boss at work is Carl (Pat Healy). He’s not happy that she has her phone on her and we see he’s kind of sleazy by checking her out.

We get to see Sarah getting a call for an audition, but she doesn’t do very well. In punishment, she goes into the bathroom and pulls her hair out. She doesn’t give up though. At home, she’s having her morning coffee and sees a casting call for a role that she fits in a movie called ‘The Silver Scream’. She applies for it.

The movie then introduces us to her group of friends. She lives with Tracy (Amanda Fuller) who is a good friend but does have a bit of an issue with sharing some personal secrets with the group. She also introduced Sarah to this group. There’s Danny (Noah Segan) who is a wannabe director and wants Sarah to star in his movie. We have Erin (Fabianne Therese) who is rude and makes snide remakes. Her tagalong is Ashley (Natalie Castillo). Sarah isn’t handling her anxiety well at the party and Erin doesn’t help there.

Sarah goes to leave and gets a phone call. Danny catches up to her, wanting her to read his script. She gets excited when she learns that the role that she applied for wants her to come in to audition. Danny and the rest of the group seem happy for her, but Erin downplays it after hearing the name as well as when later she learns it is from Astraeus Pictures.

She goes to the audition and sees another aspiring actor leave while crying. Sarah gets called in where she will audition in front of the casting director, Maria Olsen, and her assistant, Marc Senter. Sarah seems to nail it, but they don’t seem impressed. She goes into the bathroom and has another fit of punishing herself. When she goes to leave the stall, the casting director is there. She wants her to come back and do this in front of them. Sarah is hesitant at first, but she really wants the part and gives in. This gets her a callback.

Sarah wants to show everyone that she can do it, so she quits her job when Carl gives her an ultimatum. She also is pushed to her limits of how far she will go, which culminates with the producer, Louis Dezseran.  That’s officially when she must decide, give everything up to be rich and famous with this gateway role, or to keep her morals.

All I really want to say with that recap being over is wow. I can see why podcasts that delve deep into movies like covering this one as there is a lot here to uncover. What I like about this movie though is how subtle a lot of things that we get here. Clearly Sarah is a young actor that has come to Hollywood for fame. She is like countless other girls who are there to make it big and she thinks she has all the talent in the world. It is disheartening to her that she is going to these auditions and not getting them. It doesn’t help when you have a ‘friend’ like Erin who has much thicker skin. She rubs it in Sarah’s face about a commercial that she got over her. Sarah is talented, but we see that she doesn’t have the highest confidence.

Going along with this confidence aspect, we get an interesting dynamic with her and her ‘friends’. Tracy introduced her roommate to them, so they’ve all known each other longer. I do think that Danny is a good guy by nature, but it feels he has ulterior motives when it comes to Sarah. He makes her feel at ease, tells her that he wants her in his movie, but he also has slept with Erin who is ruthless. I do like that they all back her up in not sleeping with the producer. This whole group seems for the most part to have their morals and wanting to do everything the right way, but I’m curious about Erin still.

This movie is also subtle in the changes that come over Sarah. For the second interview, she is asked to strip naked in front of the camera and just let go. I did read trivia that this was taken from something that David Lynch had someone do at an audition. Or at least they claimed he did. We get the first glimpses that Sarah is losing herself and must decide, do I want to give in to what is being offered or do it the ‘right’ way. She has a moral decision when it comes to meeting the producer.

I love this cult aspect of this movie as well. This shouldn’t come as a spoiler if you’ve seen the poster for this movie. She has stars carved into her eyes and I mean, when most people head to Hollywood, they are starry eyed. On top of that, the fictional company is Astraeus, which is the Greek god of stars. She must decide to give herself over to being a star. It also feels eerily like old Hollywood or what Harvey Weinstein was doing. It is fitting that Astraeus is an older film company that seemed to be done but making a comeback. Actors needing to sleep with the higher-ups was more prevalent back in the older days, which is fitting the movie is auditioning for is The Silver Scream. That would have been the golden or silver age of cinema.

Where I want to take this next though would be to the acting, which I think it is great across the board. Essoe just owns this role. I know many people talk about this being her best and I’ve seen her in a few different things. What makes it even better was I read trivia that she was trying to be an actor for years before landing this role. It feels like she’s bringing a lot of personal experience to this performance. The rest of the acting crew of Fuller, Segan, Therese, Coffy, Castillo and Nick Simmons all feel like group of friends. There’s a bit of pretentiousness there, as they’re independent and want to make art, where it is really that they just haven’t gotten their break. It makes for an interesting dynamic with Sarah. I liked seeing Healy in his supporting role. I also thought that Olsen, Senter, Dezseran and the rest of the cult rounded this out for what was needed.

Something else I’ve been excited to talk about with this movie is the effects. They seemed to go practical which I loved. The blood we get in the movie looked so real and the attacks at the climax did as well. There is a scene with Sarah throwing up bugs, which I was shocked to find out she really had them in her mouth. That dedication makes this even better. I don’t even mind the dream sequences and how they help develop the story. It fits for what we’re getting in the scheme of things. Plus, it is a movie that you don’t know what is real or what she is experiencing. The cinematography is also on point in my opinion.

The last thing I want to cover would be the soundtrack. I found that at first, they were going to go for a more classical score, but they were convinced to go with a more synth and I’m so glad that they did. It works very well in ramping up the tension for me to feel things that Sarah is going through. It is legit one that I want to seek out for when I’m writing if I’m going to be perfectly honest.

Now with that said, I thought this movie did some amazing things if I’m going to be perfectly honest. I like the allegory that we are getting of selling your soul for fame and giving over to it. It is a perfect look at Hollywood with some of the horror stories that you hear. The acting is on point. The effects and the soundtrack are as well. I never got bored with what this movie is doing and I’m madder at myself for taking this long to finally get around to seeing it. After this first viewing, I think that I’m going to say this is a good movie that is bordering on great. With a second viewing, this movie is still as good as I remember it. I highly recommend this movie if this sounds good.


My Rating: 9 out of 10