Review: STARRY EYES

We’ve all made sacrifices to be able to do whatever it is that we want to do. Some more than others, but it’s just a fact that in life, there are moments and opportunities that present themselves and we’re faced with the question of “how far will you go?”, a question that based on the situation, could lead decent people to become either a different person or bring out who they were all along. Some films address that question and challenge their viewers to ask themselves that same question, how far would YOU go to attain that goal, that dream that you’ve always had? Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s brilliantly haunting film, STARRY EYES, brings that question to its audience, and gives them a film that like most GREAT films, plants a seed in your head, one that opens up into a film that can stay with you for days after the initial viewing.

Focusing on Sarah a waitress trying to make ends meet by working at the same kind of fast food establishment that we’ve all had to work at, at one time or another,..the ones who think they’re changing the world by serving up fries and a burger. Sarah doesn’t enjoy her job, and her only aspiration to become a successful actress and score that one big gig that so many people strive to get. When she’s not busting her ass trying her hardest to survive, she’s at her apartment complex, having to sit through the most superficial of friends, who support her dreams on the surface, but care only about themselves, the moment her back turns. The first thing Kolsch and Widmyer do with STARRY EYES that helps it succeed so well, is make it feel familiar to us. We’ve all been Sarah at one point or another, and it’s that familiarity and the ability to identify with her, that helps pulls us into the story, one that soon takes a dark turn, when Sarah scores an audition for a secret project from a mysterious yet prestigious sounding group.

What Sarah fails her audition, she retreats to a somewhere quiet and loses it, pulling her hair out and having a small breakdown. Having watched Sarah’s breakdown, the casting agents call Sarah back and eventually put her through a series of some of the most horrifying casting experiences, each one getting worse and more destructive to herself, emotionally and physically, but with each step, giving Sarah glimpses of what she thought she wanted.

To give anything else away about the film would be a big disservice to the experience of watching it, so plot-wise, we’ll stop there, but the film’s second half gets more sinister and the aforementioned question of how far one would go to attain their desires and dreams arrives in spades, allowing Sarah to not only answer that question, but face the possibility of losing herself in the process, both metaphorically and quite literally, as the film goes on. Is she making her descent into the hell that is Hollywood and it’s dark, sinister blanket?, or is she become who she was all along, while having pretended to be someone else, in a job that didn’t suit her, and putting up with “friends” who never really cared about her at all? STARRY EYES asks its viewers those questions, and boasts many excellent performances that help ask those questions. Alexandra Essoe is absolutely perfect as Sarah, hitting every single emotional point with precision, and demanding you to keep your eyes on her throughout the entire film. The film also has great supporting performances from Noah Segan (LOOPER, DEADGIRL, and who is quickly becoming one of the best character actors today), Pat Healy (CHEAP THRILLS), Amanda Fuller (RED, WHITE AND BLUE) and Marc Senter (THE LOST), helping push the story along, and serving huge parts in Sarah’s descent into hell.

It’s refreshing when films like STARRY EYES, THE BABADOOK and HONEYMOON are being made, films that don’t water down great ideas. The idea of smart and well crafted genre films might be lost at times, with how many knock offs of other, more popular horror cliche-ridden films are out there, but one thing’s for sure, the time for thought provoking and deep genre filmmaking seems to be here and getting better and better as time goes on.

 

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