Written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Distributed by MPI Home Video
Starry Eyes is a story of transformation, both physically and mentally, literally and figuratively. It tells the tale of struggling actress/Big Taters waitress Sarah (played brilliantly by Alex Essoe), who finds herself drowning in her futile attempt to land an acting gig. Surrounded by friends she can’t bond with and a job that’s nothing more to her than a necessary paycheck, Sarah is floundering to find her way. Until she goes on an audition for a film entitled The Silver Scream. After that, everything starts to change.
Brought to us by Snowfort Pictures (Jodorowsky’s Dune, Big Ass Spider!, Cheap Thrills), Starry Eyes was created by the writing/directing team of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, who did a fantastic job of creating a magnetic character in Sarah, building her up and then systematically tearing her apart. The tale they tell is one that sucks the audience into Sarah’s plight. We feel for her, we can certainly relate to her, and this makes the character very strong. Kölsch and Widmyer then take this strong character we are drawn to and lead her through an absolute maze of life-changing choices and body-changing transformations, culminating in an bloody climax and a shocking finish.
Of all the choices Kölsch and Widmyer made when creating Starry Eyes, none was more important than the casting of their lead actress, Alex Essoe. This is Essoe’s first lead in anything, and Kölsch and Widmyer were wise enough to see something in Essoe and skilled enough to bring it out of her. Essoe makes this film. The beautiful actress holds the audience in the palm of her hand as we watch her make one questionable choice after another. We care about what happens to her, and this brings some great tension to the film.
And we’re not even mentioning what happens to Sarah in the second half of Starry Eyes. We don’t want to give away too much here, but suffice to say that as amazing as Essoe is while playing the brooding, struggling character in the early parts of the film, her role becomes much more challenging as the picture rolls on. She delivers big time. Dealing with a role that is physically challenging, loaded with hours in the make-up chair, and as diverse as you can imagine, Essoe gives Sarah the exact performance she needed to make Starry Eyes stand out.
The newcomer is joined by diverse cast members who help color the film. Most impressive are Maria Olsen as the severely creepy Astraeus Pictures casting director and Louis Dezseran as the equally, if not surpassingly, creepy movie producer. Aside from Erin (Fabianne Therese) and Danny (Noah Segan), the other characters that make up Sarah’s friends tend to unfortunately blend together and don’t stand out. But aside from this one negative, the use of the characters and actors is spot on.
The Blu-ray edition of Starry Eyes has some standard special features fare. There are the usual behind-the-scenes shenanigans as well as the obligatory deleted scenes and trailer. However, boosting the quality of the extras are two very interesting additions.
First, you get a 13-minute look at Alex Essoe’s audition video. It’s really cool to see the actress work and go through her process as she reads for the role of Sarah. Additionally, the Blu-ray includes a music video by Jonathan Snipes, who provided the music for Starry Eyes. Now, normally you wouldn’t get too worked up about a bonus feature like that, but this particular one shows the actual process Snipes went through to create some of the music for the film, the layering he did, and how the song grew from one simple sound to the intricate piece we hear in the movie. Very cool.
Starry Eyes gets the job done. And again – it can’t be overstated – Alex Essoe is fantastic. She’s vulnerable and innocent when she needs to be, cunning and mysterious when she needs to be, and downright brutal when she needs to be. For a first-time lead, this is an outstanding job. Combine Essoe’s performance with the aggressive script and direction of Kölsch and Widmyer, and you’ve got a film that draws you in for the first 45 minutes and then delivers a knockout punch of a finish. Definitely one to watch!
- Commentary with writer/directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch and producer Travis Stevens
- Deleted Scenes
- Jonathan Snipes Music Video
- Alex Essoe Audition Video
- Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery