Star 80 (1983)
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Sadly this was in fact a true tragic story. See it for no other reason than Eric Roberts superb portrayal of the seven letter word usually considered vulgar meaning a stupid, incompetent or detestable person boyfriend/husband/manager of Dorothy Stratten. Vastly superior to the alternate version 1981's Death of A Centerfold.
Bogdanovich wrote a scathing book about the case, "Death of the Unicorn" in which he lam basts Hugh Hefner (no more invitations to the mansion for him). What is really weird is that Bogdanovich later married Dorothy Stratten's younger sister, who was in junior high when Dorothy was killed.
Snider believes in the American Dream, that if you outwork and out-hustle everyone else, and have a marketable product to hawk, you will be successful. It so happens that Snider's product is sex. Snider rises up through sheer determination (visually depicted in the opening work out scene, in which he pumps iron and does push-ups until he's on the verge of having a stroke). It also helps that Snider has no moral principles that hold him back.
Paul achieves the pinnacle of his desires when he gets to visit the Playboy Mansion. He not only gets the opportunity to socialize with Playboy Bunnies, but he gets to meet his spiritual father -- Hugh Hefner. Hefner is another self-made man who has turned sex into a big business, but unlike Snider, he is socially respectable.
But Paul blows it when he gets too familiar with Hefner. Hefner takes an instant dislike to Paul. As Dorothy rises up the food chain in Hollywood, getting roles in TV and in film, Paul finds himself banished from the charmed circle of Hefner's Mansion and he thereby self-destructs. All of his projects -- opening a male dance club, trying to get a waitress bimbo into the Mansion to meet Hef -- are failures. His wife drifts away from him, having an affair with her director.
Paul is out of his element in L.A., and soon crashes and burns. Fosse provides imagery and conceits of "falllng" and "crashing" -- such as the scene when the loan sharks dangle Paul out of 14-story hotel window, and Fosse's camera swish-pans sideways and downwards to give us an uneasy sense of vertigo and impending doom. This motif continues in the carnival scene, as Fosse inserts quick shots of amusement park rides whipping downward and sideways. There is even a doll perched precariously on a book shelf in Aram's office -- probably a symbol of Dorothy. There is also a telling line of dialog, when Dorothy's mother asks Paul what he will do if she doesn't sign the consent form, and Paul says, "I'll jump out a window." In the final rape/murder/suicide scene, there is an emphasis on falling -- and the final shot looks down from high above, at two dead, bloody bodies that seem to have dropped into Hell.
Fosse's use of pop music is superb, and revelatory. "Big Shot" by Billy Joel is about egomania fueled by coke, and not only does Paul want to be a big shot in Hollywood, he takes the ultimate "big shot" when he blows his brains out with a Mossberg shotgun. The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek" tells about a man who lives off his girlfriend. There is a lyric about betting on a nag, which is visually underlined in another scene when Paul changes horses on a merry-go-round (further expressed when Paul "changes horses" by trying to turn a bimbo waitress into another Dorothy). Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are" provides ironic commentary. Paul is not only dissatisfied with himself, but he constantly strives to change Dorothy from a naive teen into a mature, sophisticated woman -- and he succeeds too well, as Dorothy grows up and realizes she must get away from him. Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" is appropriate, as it provides auditory reinforcement of Paul's eager desire to please and make a good impression.
There is a lot of thought put into the film. Geb is not merely a doctor, he is a plastic surgeon, and has moved to West L.A. to flourish in his trade. His profession is all too apt in a world in which surface appearance is everything. He also gives the key speech in the film, in which he reminds Paul that in L.A., "There's always going to be someone with more money than you, someone with a longer penis than you." That last observation really gets to Paul. He feels grossly inadequate and must overcompensate in every situation. Geb also makes the questionable claim that the Rolls in his garage is just an investment, rather than an emblem of conspicuous consumption.
The film has a Shakespearean quality. Hefner is the King, Dorothy is the Princess, Aram is the Prince, and Paul is the Bastard. People like Geb are the loyal attendants in the King's court. Some, like Aram, are bestowed with the favor of the King, while others are dispatched into exile. Paul can't take the rejection, and kills Dorothy and himself. If the sexual revolution was really a Pandora's Box, then Paul is one of the demons let loose to hover ominously over the orgy.
The movie serves as an epitaph to an ordinary young woman with extraordinary beauty who never had a chance once she got in the clutches of such a self-serving user. For me the most painfully sad moment in the movie came when Dorothy's mother (Carroll Baker) contemptuously tells Snider, "She never even used to go around in her bathrobe before you came along."
This movie is obviously not a lot of laughs but it's still worthwhile, especially for the outstanding performance of Roberts.
Eric Roberts is very believable as Paul Schneider, a promoter who met Dorothy Stratten (while she was a kid working at a local Dairy Queen, in Canada), brought her to Hollywood, and resented her eventual success. Her shooting star to fame resulted in eventual tragedy.
Mariel Hemingway is believable as Stratten, although the truly innocent act is a bit hard to buy. Cliff Robertson portrays Hugh Hefner, a faded figure today, but still virile in the 80's.
The Roberts character is initially sleazy, then desperate, then pathetic. Apparently Paul Schneider could not keep up with Stratten, became overly possessive, and jealous of her success. She became involved with director Peter Bogdanovich, and this was the beginning of the end for Schneider.
The back-story of Hollywood in general and the rat race to stay on top, is very accurately presented. Schneider eventually tried to steal Stratten's name, to license her name and profit from her. When she had had enough, and no longer needed him, he took her fate in his own hands. The finale is stark and realistic. 9/10.