Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988)

Not Rated  |   |  Short, Music  |  30 April 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 1,875 users  
Reviews: 39 user | 30 critic

Karen Carpenter's battle with anorexia nervosa and the cultural influence of the Carpenters in the 70s.


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The Karen Carpenter Story (TV Movie 1989)
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Story of the meteoric rise and sudden fall of Karen Carpenter, who became a famous singer before battling anorexia and bulemia.

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Credited cast:
Merrill Gruver ...
Karen (voice)
Michael Edwards ...
Richard (voice)
Melissa Brown ...
Mother (voice)
Dad / Mr. A&M (voice)
Nannie Doyle ...
Cherry Boone (voice)
Cynthia Schneider ...
Dionne Warwick (voice)
Larry Kole ...
Announcer (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Joanne Barrett
Gwen Kraus ...
Narrator (voice)
Michelle Manenti
Moira McCarty
Himself - President of the United States (archive footage)
Celia Pearce
Himself - President of the United States (archive footage)


Karen and Richard Carpenter are young musicians living with their parents in Downey, California. Richard shows great promise as a songwriter and Karen, who plays drums, begins to sing vocals, thrusting the duo into stardom. They become wildly successful, Karen's striking voice and Richard's soft melodies capturing the essence of the nation's yearning for calm after the turbulent Sixties. But Karen strives for perfection and becomes increasingly fearful of her weight, despite being a slender woman. Eventually she is diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, a mental disease relating to stress, lack of control, and low self-esteem. A fight for Karen's life ensues. Written by Jim Beaver <>

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Short | Music


Not Rated




Release Date:

30 April 1988 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film has been out of legal circulation since 1990, subject to a cease and desist order pertaining to unauthorized use of the Carpenters' music. See more »


In the opening sequence, a crew member can be glimpsed at the end of the hallway as the camera rounds the corner on its way into Karen's bedroom. See more »


Narrator: The affliction which eventually destroyed Karen Carpenter is one that plagues many, many young women like her. The name of this private obsession, anorexia nervosa.
Woman #1: What IS anorexia nervosa?
Narrator: Anorexia nervosa is a condition of self starvation, which affects mostly women in their adolescence or young adulthood. Sufferers desperately want to be thin, and often transform their bodies to such an extent that menstruation ceases, and they revert to a pre-pubescent stage.
Woman #2: Do anorexics ever get hungry?
Narrator: ...
See more »


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User Reviews

Sublimely Brilliant and Subversive
7 September 2004 | by See all my reviews

Unexplainably brilliant. You have to see it to believe it, really.

Understandably suppressed by Richard--I won't spoil it for you--it is at turns hiariously bitchy, grotesque, tender, and cruel. At the same time, it elevates the subject matter, leaving this viewer with a much deeper sense of appreciation for the Karen. I laughed at them, and it made my like both of them more.

The story is dramatized through carefully and minutely constructed sets populated by Barbie dolls clothed in carefully crafted period clothes. Karen's descent into anorexia is represented through whittling down the face and arms of the Barbie doll that portrays her, which has an effect both hilarious and disturbing.

All in all, it feels so much like a "real" documentary, I can't tell you that it isn't. It's treatment of the subject of annorexia and it's effect on Karen's life is at once silly and serious.

I saw it on DVD. The box had next to nothing printed on it. It was obviously bootlegged from somewhere, but the print I saw had good quality audio and visual.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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