Review: Star 80, seen on March 1st

Star 80 (Bob Fosse, 1983) – based on the true story of tragic fated Playboy’s Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, played by Woody Allen girl (REALLY a girl, anyone who’s seen Allen’s Manhattan would agree =/) Mariel Hemingway. It follows the story of how Stratten came to meet her murderer: her husband Paul Snider, played by Julia’s big brother, Eric Roberts. Directed by Bob Fosse, the film starts by showing us the decay and the progress of Snider’s anger, as he one day meets Dorothy and starts seeing her as an opportunity for success. What Fosse achieved in the fantastics Cabaret and All That Jazz so effortlessly was that the flow of those films seemed invisible: they’re both rather lengthy, they’re both kind of raunchy, yet the energy in which he brings into his actors and into his direction make it all look so breezy. Unfortunately, this is not the case for this film. Often we see the story fractured by interviews of people who knew Dorothy or Paul (or rather, actors who play them), trying to tell us things we’re kind of already seeing in the film by these small character’s reactions. By this Fosse seems willing to capture a documentary feel into the film, but it just seems unrealistic, not to mention some of the dialogues of these faux-interviews just come out so unnatural, and the saddest of all, it breaks the rhythm of the film considerably, which like I’ve already said seems to be Fosse’s forte. Another glaring flaw in the picture seems to be some sort of unintentional sadism in the way the story’s being told: rushedly shot only 3 years after the incident, the decision of filming the tragic climax in the same department where the real Dorothy Stratten was murdered, are often very obvious aspects the film never tries to hide even though it should, and the result just seems exploitative, and for the audience, downright unpleasant.

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But if the film does excel in some departments, it’s in the acting: Mariel Hemingway rises above the script’s lazy decision of never showing why Dorothy cares so much about the schlub, and with limited subtle stares and soft voice makes us understand that perhaps despite the uneasiness Paul provokes on her, there’s an understanding and sympathetic feelings that make her try to handle the situation as long as humanly possible. On the other hand, and with an entirely different style of acting, there’s Eric Roberts, who despite the screenplay’s attempts to show the guy’s situation in a sympathetic manner, never gives in into clichés and just shows Paul Snider’s inner demons with such a pathos and in such a convincing way that he achieves a coldly truthful, honest, yet effortlessly transparent portrayal of this pathetic, sleazy man. All in all, a rushed, lazy and unpleasant project about a story that should have never been told, but that works as an acting showcase for both its stars just perfectly, they’re the reason to at least give the film a try. Rating: C

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