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In THE ROSE, Bette Midler plays a character based on the life of Janis
Joplin. This one of those rare movies where everything works perfectly.
Although she is amazingly talented, I sometimes wonder if Bette herself
ever looks back on this movie and wonders how she managed such an
amazing portrayal, in the same way that an Olympic skater reviews the
footage of a 10.0 performance and is stunned that every blade stroke
really is picture perfect.
While the storyline is memorable, and the acting superb, music outshines everything else. This is a movie from 1979, a time when rock and roll was still considered a lifestyle, and big rock bands were treated with absolute god-like adoration. Music mattered. It was a vital part of peoples' lives, and in THE ROSE it reaches the heights of excellence that normally exist only in memories that have improved with age. In this case, the music sounds as vibrant, exciting, and fresh today as when the movie debuted.
Bette belts out these songs with soul and fiery passion. The only other contemporary singer I can imagine doing a similarly credible job is Melissa Etheridge.
Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar for Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), but in retrospect I'm sure a lot of people regret not having awarded it to Bette Midler. This was not only an amazing, high caliber performance, but one that the passage of time has not diminished. This is a stunning movie. My dream is to rent a movie theatre for an evening, invite 30 friends, and relive this great experience.
Movie theatres used to be bigger, and were aptly called "movie palaces". THE ROSE deserves to be seen in such a grand venue. In the rich pantheon of movie history, THE ROSE is true royalty.
Note added October 9, 2007: It has been over a year, and I have no indication if anyone has ever read this review. If you read it, even if you give it a thumbs down, please answer whether the review was useful to you or not. I just am so curious if anyone will EVER read it. Right now, I'm listening to the soundtrack. This movie is timeless.
This was Bette Midler's first starring role in a film and she finally showed the world what a great talent she is. This story is very loosely based on Janis Joplin and it takes place (Supposedly) in 1969. Midler is a famous rock n' roll diva Mary Rose Foster and she's known just as "Rose". She's burnt out and lonely but is kept working by her gruff manager/promoter Rudge Campbell (Alan Bates) who supplies her with shots of adrenalin to keep her going. Rose is an alcoholic and a former drug user and she has a tough past from growing up in Florida. This past haunts her and she keeps talking about showing everyone from there how she has made it. After a country singing star named Billy Ray (Harry Dean Stanton) orders her to never sing one of his songs again and ridicules her morals Rose is furious. She takes off with a limo driver named Huston Dyer (Frederic Forrest) and starts a romance with him. Rudge thinks Huston is just another hanger on but Rose thinks she has finally met her true love. Huston tells her that he's actually AWOL from the army and she tells him of her past in Florida. They have a rocky relationship and Rose meets an Army PFC named Mal (David Keith) who tags along on the tour. This film is directed by Mark Rydell who went on to direct "On Golden Pond" and one thing he has shown in both films is complete trust in his actors. There is very little structure to this film and its mainly just a showcase for Midler. Without her dynamite performance this would have been one of the biggest duds in history. Give Rydell credit for a good eye in giving Midler the opportunity. The film consists of two types of scenes. The concert footage that shows Midler's tremendous voice and stage presence, and the scenes where she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the inability to exist in the real world. Its very rare to see an unknown explode on screen like this. Midler is nothing short of riveting and astonishing. Her character is so dark and bleak that an actress of lesser strength would have gave out but Midler has so much energy that she appears tireless. The films cinematographer is the great Vilmos Zsigmond and over 90% of the scenes are either at night or in low lit rooms. This gives the film the dark and bleak look that epitomizes Rose's personality and future. Forrest as Huston is also excellent. Aside from "Apocalypse Now" this was his finest performance and the two of them have real chemistry on screen. Forrest spent most of his career playing hardnoses or heavies but here he plays a real normal guy who is at odds with himself and if he should remain with the always drunken Rose. The film does go way too long and some of the scenes are pointless. It seemed irrelevant when a former lesbian lover pops up out of nowhere and Rose and Huston have a big fight. This part of the film could have been edited out completely as it serves no purpose. Ponderous handling of the material by Rydell but with Midler's gut wrenching performance it becomes a film that is ultimately unforgettable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film in college for $1 in 1980 and never really appreciated
it until now.
It is amazing to note that this is the same Bette Midler who did all those Disney/Touchtone movies (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, etc.)! This is not a happy film. It has no happy ending. Most of the film is dark, adding to the dreariness of the story.
But you just watch Bette watching Houston Dyer leave her because he couldn't put up with her life. Watch him as he pauses before he gets into the tractor trailer that he's just hitched a ride with, watch him as he looks back at her, almost reflecting, thinking, for just a moment, reconsidering his choice, and then makes the decision to live with the choice and get on the truck, going God only knows where, leaving her.
Camera goes back to Bette, on the ground, wailing in agony, despair, and sadness.
You just watch Bette singing "Stay With Me, Baby" at the end of the film at the concert when she goes back to her hometown. How many takes before they got it right? Once? 37? She's on her knees, she's cradling the microphone, her eyes are blackened with the makeup that has mingled with the tears. Watch David Keith applaud from offstage as he's watching her give the performance of her life and KNOW that that applause was ad-libbed, that he was completely knocked out by her performance.
And then come back and tell me that this film was crap. I've seen Norma Rae and always believed that Sally Field deserved her Oscar but I no longer think that. Bette was robbed, plain and simple.
Bette Midler IS the Rose! There are not too many films out there in which the viewer forgets their watching a movie - this is one of them. Watching The Rose is almost like snooping on someone's personal life... you know you shouldn't but you can't believe what's being revealed to you right before your eyes! Bette Midler is simply "divine" and completely believable as the worn-out, alcohol-abusing rock star who is in dire need of love and a break but continues to please her audience - and her ruthless, money hungry manager. After kicking a bad drug habit we watch her throughout the movie slowly, little by little, sink back down to the bottom. You root for her throughout hoping she just runs away from the rock and roll life that's slowly killing her but she seems to need it as much as it needs her. In the end it devours her and we're left wondering "why". This film changed my life when I was a teenager with a rock 'n' roll dream. Bette Midler pours her heart and soul into this film, and it shows in every frame. Combine that with an awesome sound track, breathtaking full length song performances and an over-the-edge personality and you have one heck of a film here!
I'm no fan of Bette Midler, but I was mighty impressed by her first
starring role in "The Rose". The Divine Miss M plays Rose, a Janis
Joplin-type, living her last days in a sea of sex, booze, and drugs.
The movie shows painfully and slowly how her life goes completely out
of control, while her friends and management are helpless.
Midler, unlike the unbearably long line of singers/rappers/divas/bubblegum pop stars who have done acting, can do both and dominate. Midler's Oscar-nominated performance is awesome, and her singing voice is superb as she belts out the songs with panache. If you want to see her do something else besides the endless comedies she does, check this one out.
The Rose is about a woman whose sole purpose in life was to give of herself completely. Protected from adult responsibilities by her manager, "Rose" dug further and further inside herself, alienating all those who loved her. With an adolescent attitude toward life, she indulged in every excess. The poignant scene in the phone booth, where she overdoses on a lethal combination of pain killers, heroin, and booze is certainly worthy of an Academy Award. We feel her pain, and we really believe we are seeing a woman in the last hour of her life. Killing herself before our eyes, yet we are helpless to stop her. We can't stop watching. The final scene, and the final song Rose sings, Stay With Me, is filmmaking at its best. It sums up her life, and the life of so many talented musicians (Kurt Cobane, Jim Morrison, etc). Rose was desperate to have someone, anyone, who was there just for her. Yet she pushed everyone away who truly cared about her. Bette Midler's passionate and inspired performances in concert footage is unforgettable. The Rose is one of the best movies ever made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am the only surviving female-impersonator who played in "The Rose". I
was the only one who had a talking-scene with Midler and Forest. I was
approached to be Bette's impersonator in a drag-club, because I was/am
a live performer. Midler's manager, Aaron Russo - who had come to check
me out - called-out that I was doing Bette's "jokes" during a live
performance in the world-famous "The Queen Mary", a night club in
Studio City, CA - now sadly closed after 42 years. However, I do not do
impersonations of other performers. What the manager didn't know is
that most of her material came from drag-queens. I also had appeared in
The 82 Club in New York City - a mafia-run establishment, and wonderful
to work for, also closed - and was hired originally by Rydell as a
consultant for the physical attributes in a long-closed speakeasy in
downtown Los Angeles......it was larger, but perfect. After a
conversation with Mark Rydell and a singing audition for an unseen Ms.
Midler, I was told "bring an outfit - we've written a role for you". I
was hesitant to accept - there was no contract for a speaking-role, I
was paid only scale. I attended the first day of shooting on location,
but did not go for the second day - they came to get me, I suppose
because they liked what they saw in the "dailies" - There was a third
day of shooting, all of which were totally miserable for me - I had no
aspirations to be a "movie-star" - I was an established drag-act with a
large following and loved my work. My drag-appearance was outrageous,
as you'll know if you saw the film "The Rose" - I planned it that way,
because that's the act I was doing at the time the film was shot. The
role I did in the film actually was an impersonation of someone's
identity I cannot divulge - I'm sure many New Yorkers picked-up on it
immediately. All of the hair-dressers on location were shocked with my
hairpiece - they could not have combed it. On the final day of
shooting, it became very quiet after the "wrap". Ms. Midler very
quietly called me over to speak with her before the entire company,
thanking me for being so quiet during the shooting, not constantly
calling "make-up", "hair" as the other impersonators did. I was highly
I've seen the film only once in a theater, and became so engrossed with the story, I completely forgot I was in it. Like 90% of the audience, when I saw myself I gasped. I heard people call-out my name, as I sunk deeper into my seat. It was only then I became extremely gratified to have been in the film. Ms. Midler and I never stuck to the script, because it did not bring-out that her character had once been down-and-out when she lived above "The 777 Club", and I supplied her with drugs. There is enough unused film from that shoot to make another film. What a waste of money ! It was and is my opinion the entire scene could have been left-out, it was so poorly, ruthlessly edited.
I worked for many years in "The Queen Mary" after the film was released. I never made a big deal that I was in the film. People asked if I were in "The Rose" during my performances - and do still today wherever I happen to be - and I tell them I was, but it was only another job - as it was just that. I'm much better known for performances at "The Queen Mary" than having appeared in "The Rose". I've turned-down opportunities to appear in other films, because I have no real interest, unless the money is good. Scale.....peanuts. Making movies is not fun !! All that standing-around, shooting the same scene 50 times-a-day.
If you are familiar with "The Queen Mary", you'll know my name. Otherwise, you'll have to look at this sensational film to discover my identity. I call myself "The Oldest Drag-Queen in Captivity", because I'm 82-going-on 30.
As other posters have stated, "The Rose" IS NOT A BIOP OF JANIS JOPLIN. If it's true the story was just a film for Ms. Midler to perform in to show her talent, it is a fabulous testament to that fact. Is she an actress? Indeed! She could not have done the body of work she accomplished without being one. Viva Midler ! The appearance of the film is exactly as it was intended to be - criticize all you want, this is a major film - and will become a classic.
Loosely based upon the life of Janis Joplin and her struggles with fame and drugs, the Rose stays with the viewer long after the final fadeout. Acting tour-de-forces are manifest everywhere, and although virtually the entire supporting cast brings a Broadway-style truth and urgency that make thus excellent.
Originally intended as a flat-out biography of Janis Joplin's last days titled "Pearl" ( Janis' nickname and alter-ego ) the filmakers allegedly ran into privacy issues with the Joplin family which caused them to take a more "loosely based" approach of a "composite" character! Even Bette Midler herself had some ideas of her own that promised to provide a fictious portrayal! Since I had always found Janis Joplin's life both fascinating and tragic I had to write off seeing this movie in the theatres when it first came out in 1979.It wasn't until sitting through it on HBO that I could truly appreciate how utterly great Bette Midler's performance was!It certainly stayed close enough to the "truth" while adding some dynamic elements that a Janis biography portrayed by anyone else would have sorely lacked! Bette Midler is truely at her best! She pours out her heart and soul into this role and leaves nothing behind!Her rock concert scenes alone show her broad talent as a stage performer! Her scenes drunk & stoned give a rare glimpse into a lonely and crazy world of rock stars(like Janis Joplin was!) Her scene with her childhood country-music idol reminded me of a similar situation between Janis and Johnny Cash! Her former lesbian lover is reminiscent of Janis' one-time "biographer/lover" Peggy Caserta! The "homecoming" concert at the film's end reminded me of Janis' 10-year-highschool reunion which she attended only shortly before her death! All in All I regret not having seen (in the theatre) this "loosely based" and yet "thinly disguised" story of Janis!With Bette Midler at center stage it stands as both a glowing tribute to Janis AND Bette!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Better Midler gives a smashing, touching, tear-the-house-down dynamic
and exhilarating Oscar-nominated performance as the Rose, a fabulously
wealthy and successful popular rock superstar sensation who's been
burnt-out and worn down by too much long hard time on the road, too
much booze and drugs (Rose likes to swig Southern Comfort straight from
the bottle while performing live on stage), too many cameras in her
face and too much time spent recording songs in the studio at the
expense of having a meaningful and fulfilling personal life, all of
which leaves Rose feeling terribly lonely, unhappy and unloved. Rose
wants to take a much-needed vacation, but her pushy, ruthless,
overbearing greedhead manager Rudge Campbell (flawlessly played to
intensely contemptible perfection by Alan Bates) urges her to do a
special hometown concert. Rose finds temporary solace in her
relationship with good-looking nice guy drifter Houston Dyer (a
characteristically top-drawer turn by the criminally undervalued
Frederic Forrest, who deservedly snagged a Best Supporting Actor
nomination for his superlative work here), but Dyer's inability to
easily handle Rose's wild lifestyle of debauched excess only
exacerbates the severity of Rose's depression, which goes off the deep
end into total despair with tragic consequences.
Loosely based on the real-life flash-in-the-pan live fast, live hard, live like today's almost over and tomorrow ain't never gonna happen and if you live like this too much you will most certainly die young sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll exploits of Janis Joplin, "The Rose" poignantly exposes the horrible price of fame and fortune, showing to often devastating effect the way fame destroys one's ability to have a personal life, pushes people to a near breaking point, and grinds people down to nothing after they lose the strength needed to withstand the strain being a famous person grimly entails. Mark Rydell's perceptive direction and the trenchant script by Bill Kirby and Bo Goldman neither glorifies nor vilifies the rock'n'roll lifestyle, opting instead to merely show its potentially dangerous pratfalls with a properly glum, depressing tone and an arresting, unflinching frankness.
Vilmos Zsigmund's glittering, burnished, faded cinematography gives the film an appropriately blinding brightly saturated color flashy look, shooting the lively, uninhibited concert sequences through a dense smoky haze of piercing reddish hues (such fellow noted cameramen as Laszlo Kovacs, Owen Roizman and Haskell Wexler also lent a hand to the dazzling concert sequences). Toni Basil, who had a fluke top 10 hit tune with the waggish novelty song "Hey Mickey," did the raunchy'n'raucous dance choreography. Midler belts out all her songs in a hoarse, bluesy, whiskey-ravaged alto with incredible incendiary gusto; the highlights include the hauntingly beautiful and melancholy title ballad, a torchy, slow-burning rendition of "When a Man Loves a Woman," and a hilariously campy shredding of Bob Seger's "Fire Down Below" done in a drag queen bar with a bunch of outrageous transvestite celebrity lady impersonators (70's mock disco diva Sylvestor plays the Diana Ross lookalike). Midler's show-dominating tour-de-force portrayal gets sterling support from an exceptional cast peppered with stand-out character actors: David Keith as a bashful soldier, Jack Starrett as a country music road manager, John Dennis Johnson as a rowdy hick jerk in a hillbilly bar, Jonathan Banks as an oily TV promoter, Don Calfa as a smarmy music biz leech, Victor Argo as a bath house locker room attendant, Will Hare as an amiable grocer, and, in a particularly chilling and startling cameo, the great Harry Dean Stanton as a cold-hearted a**hole country singer/songwriter who flatly tells Rose right to her face that he thinks her singing stinks. A sad, insightful and eye-opening film, "The Rose" makes for a truly heart-breaking, but undeniably powerful portrait of an all-too-human and fragile person who gets led down the road to ruin by the very business that ironically made her.
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