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Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988)

Not Rated  |   |  Short, Music  |  30 April 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 1,844 users  
Reviews: 39 user | 29 critic

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


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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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Music


Not Rated




Release Date:

30 April 1988 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ranked #45 on Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time" 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 »


Title card: Despite her busy schedule, Karen made many friends in the industry, such as Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton-John, and Marlo Thomas. By 1975, however, it became clear that it was the inner relationship with herself that dominated Karen's life: her obsession with food and her refusal to eat.
See more »


Version of The Karen Carpenter Story (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

banning the film only made it more famous
6 January 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There's a certain brilliance behind the idea of using Barbie dolls to recount the story of singer Karen Carpenter, and the exchange of one plastic all-American icon with another results in an oddly respectful (if suitably macabre) show-biz biography, flirting at times with campy irreverence without ever becoming vulgar. By reducing Carpenter's tragic life to dollhouse proportions the film transforms it into a miniature image of the American Dream gone sour, carrying all the morbid fascination of a tabloid celebrity exposé. But this isn't a memorial to (or a mockery of) the singer's life and musical career; it's an artfully made, near-satirical reflection of how numb and destructive American values had become during the 1970s.

I was lucky to catch a rare theatrical screening (at the York Theater in San Francisco) in the summer of 1988, three years before the film was banned for its unauthorized use of copyrighted music.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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