Gary over at The Critical Critic recommended this movie to me a little while ago; he actually listed it as his favourite movie of 2014 and, while I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s making my top ten list, I would definitely recommend that you watch it too.
This movie struck a personal cord with me as I went to school for theatre and then made a go at becoming an actress. Needless to say, that didn’t quite work out for me. I went to one too many auditions where the direction I received was, “Be as sexy as you can.” I was actually told to lick a guy’s face once. I decided the industry wasn’t for me but a part of me still wonders where I would be now if I had stuck it out, if I had tried a little longer and held onto my dream. I have other dreams now but a part of me still wants to be an actress. So when the main character in this movie was faced with similar moral dilemmas, it brought back some not-so-happy memories.
Enough about me, Starry Eyes is about a girl named Sarah Walker (Alexandra Essoe) who is aspiring to be an actress. She is surrounded by people on similar paths who seem to be inching ever closer to success as she is left standing still. Willing to do anything to succeed, Sarah goes on an audition which seems to be going poorly until the directors asks Sarah to completely let go of all her inhibitions and have a near mental breakdown in front of them. This is the first step down a path that Sarah hopes will lead to her fame but is more likely going to lead to something more sinister.
I love how this movie takes a seemingly everyday situation and turns it into something completely unexpected. There’s such an air of suspense and menace throughout that directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer built that you’ll be hard pressed to look away. There’s a constant feeling that something else is going on. Slightly satirical, Starry Eyes hits the right notes of realism while still exaggerating typical actor clichés. It’s definitely a clever take on an old story.
I love the depth that Alexandra Essoe shows throughout the film as well. She really made Sarah’s emotional life become the focus of the movie. She has a lot of talent and I really look forward to seeing what she is in next. She perfectly portrayed the young insecure Sarah, being clearly fragile yet so determined in achieving her goals. It’s a hard line to toe, but Essoe did it beautifully.
The themes of transformation and the lengths to which people will go to all in the name of ambition is prevalent throughout, during obvious moments of physical transformation and in small, subtle shifts in the characters throughout the film. These moments were handled really well and it made me appreciate Kolsch and Widmyer even more as talented storytellers. Now, it was disappointing that such a well established idea and characters took a downward spiral into mere gore and typical horror tropes towards the end. We were looking for a grand finale and it was fine but I expected more, especially when the focus became the gore, effects and shock value instead of the character development. That being said, the very end brings it back around full circle and the movie finishes on a good note.
Overall, Starry Eyes lost me for a bit near the end but the strong sense of direction throughout the beginning and the very end, the incredible performance by Alexandra Essoe, the interesting twists and the general atmosphere make this a movie that you shouldn’t miss.
Here’s the trailer if you want to know what you’re getting into: