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Bette Midler plays The Rose, a female rock star strikingly similar to Janis Joplin. The film follows Rose's career during her last tour, as she's determined to return to her Florida hometown. Although a success, she's exhausted and lonely but continued working by her gruff and greedy manager. Through loud and brassy, Rose is an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life. She begins a romance with a limousine driver, who's actually an AWOL sergeant from the United States Army. Her rock and roll lifestyle of Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll and constant touring lead her to an inevitable breakdown. Written by
R. John Berggren <email@example.com>
The Rose is a fairly good loose depiction of the life and tragedy of Janis Joplin. Bette Midler more than pulls it off as the title character. She plays a singer who seems larger than life when she's on stage, but once she steps off it, we see a troubled and lonely woman on the brink of a complete breakdown. In an early scene, Rose pleads with her manager (Alan Bates) to give her a year off to presumably dry out and rest up. Her manager scoffs at this notion more than once throughout the film as there is just too much at stake financially if she stops performing for a while. We see Rose sink deeper and deeper into depression and alcoholism as the film goes on from one performance to another. Along the way, Rose meets up with a limo driver (Frederic Forrest) with whom she has a fling. Houston, as he's called, is drawn to this rich and vulnerable woman, but he cannot deal with some of her personal circumstances. He feels a lot of the attention she receives comes from the wrong people and for the wrong reasons. Rose really likes this guy, and the troubles she has with him really make things a lot worse as the film moves toward its conclusion. That being a concert which will be held in her home town. She also has an ambiguous relationship with David Keith who plays a young soldier she meets up with in an airport scene. Keith is supposedly hired on as a bodyguard, but his true purpose is never really explained. Problems with both people and substance abuse build throughout the film, and the conclusion can be seen from quite a ways off.
The film has several good points. First off, the acting is terrific all around. Midler has the feisty character down perfectly. Alan Bates as her manager is top drawer, too. Their conflict creates perhaps the most memorable scenes. Forrest mostly underplays as a country boy along for the ride who has a hard time coming to grips with this wild woman who has just fallen for him. Nobody comes up short in the acting department.
The down side to this film deals with Ms. Midler's singing. Director Mark Rydell has to toe a pretty thin line in terms of what this film is trying to be. Is it a musical vehicle built around Midler's singing ability, or is it a drama about a tragic musical figure? To his credit, Rydell pretty much has it both ways. Midler's singing ability is what it is. Personally I can take or leave it. Do some of the songs go on too long? For me, yes. I would have preferred more dialog and less music. But hard core fans of Midler will love the songs.
The idea this film effectively conveys is that celebrities are often some of the most lonely people on earth. True, they are surrounded by all kinds of staff and get all kinds of attention from fans, but beneath all of that there really isn't much to it for most celebs. The way they live, especially musicians who constantly tour, gives them little time to settle down and experience traditional friendships or romantic relationships. Notice how in an early scene, Rose practically falls down the stairs of an airplane, and nobody helps her! Her band just casually gets on a bus and her manager grudgingly goes over and helps her up after a moment. Regular people who are neither rich or famous often cannot fathom how some celebs seem to self-destruct before they've even had long careers. (Britney Spears would come to mind.) Truth is, we humans are all basically creatures of duality. No matter who we are, we all have our good and bad times. Most people can get through the bad times with the help of friends and family. Celebrities however have a lot farther to fall than most people when things start coming apart. Other than expensive rehab facilities which seldom work, a celeb usually has nobody else to turn to that can deal with them as a real person while they attempt to overcome their demons. That said, is it any wonder so many of them go from top of the world to down in the gutter seemingly overnight? 7 of 10 stars.
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