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Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988)

Not Rated  |   |  Short, Music  |  30 April 1988 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 1,807 users  
Reviews: 38 user | 29 critic

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

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Cast

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)
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Storyline

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 <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

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Release Date:

30 April 1988 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie is illegal to sell, or distribute, and is out of circulation, although hundreds of bootleg copies have been sold. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Richard: Karen, wake up. Come on, we've got fifteen minutes.
[discovers laxatives by Karen's bed]
Richard: What are you doing with these?
Karen: Oh, I'm so sleepy.
Richard: How many laxatives did you take?
Karen: I hardly remember.
Richard: What are you trying to do? Ruin both our careers? Now, get up. Drink some coffee. Now, come on! We've got fifteen minutes! Redo your makeup! You're a mess!
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User Reviews

 
A great, if currently illegal, short film.
19 September 1998 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

A marvelous film made by Todd Haynes, a Brown University student at the time, later the director of "Poison" and the brilliant, hypnotic "Safe" (1995), "Superstar" details the rise and fall of Karen Carpenter entirely through an inspired formal devise: Carpenter, her brother Richard, family, and friends are all "portrayed" by Barbie dolls. The film is not merely about fame or anorexia (the disease of which Carpenter died), but conjures the suburban California of the 1970's, indeed the whole plastic experience of America and American pop culture (of which, of course, The Carpenters and Barbie dolls are most certainly a part). The sincere lite-rock of The Carpenters is juxtaposed with the emptiness and powerful sorrow of these "people"; the film isn't merely a satire--it's deeply touching in a way that many "human stories" fail to be. Upon its appearance, the film became a minor cause celebre in hip, arty New York circles; unfortunately, when Richard Carpenter, proprietor of The Carpenters' music (who doesn't exactly come across as a hero in the film), got wind of it, he called his lawyers. The fact of the matter is that Haynes and his producers never cleared the use of the music--the film was never intended to be shown for profit. Simply, though, there is no film without the music. The still-standing cease-and-desist order prevents the film from being distributed in any form; I saw a third- or fourth-generation copy on video, and it was still better than virtually anything I saw that year. "Superstar" is worth seeking out; it's genuinely (and I rarely use this word) inspiring.


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