Friday, September 4, 2009

Film Review: STAR 80 (1983, Bob Fosse)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Eric Roberts, Mariel Hemingway, Cliff Robertson, David Clennon (Palmer in THE THING),- Keenan Ivory Wayans cameo as a stand-up comic.
Best one-liner: "You won't forget Paul Snider."

STAR 80 is another in a series of brilliant Fosse-directed biopics (LENNY, ALL THAT JAZZ). This time it's about slain Playboy playmate and burgeoning actress, Dorothy Stratten, and her jealous, unhinged husband, Paul Snider. His last film, and his follow-up to ALL THAT JAZZ, Fosse makes it almost another AUTO-biopic, accentuating similarities between Snider and himself (as portrayed by Roy Scheider in ATJ). This is the story of Paul Snider, but it's also an alternate history of Bob Fosse; the 'what might have been,' had he been just a little bit sleazier and a lot less talented.

As Snider, Eric Roberts is an absolute powerhouse. Over the top, but, by all accounts, true to life, Roberts transforms the self-obsessed Snider not quite into a character that we pity, but a character whose distressing machinations we can at least understand.

Mariel Hemingway is sweetly, depressingly naive as Dorothy (filmed in the very apartment where the real Stratten was murdered), who becomes almost a ghost in the film, frozen in time by Fosse's snapshots and white-outs.

Stylistic decisions such as these give the film an extra sense of urgency, combining documentary-style staged interviews, ample cross-cutting, and overlapping audio to again (as in ALL THAT JAZZ) present reality from a godly point-of-view, the wreckage of a life endlessly piled atop itself, all happening at once.

As a personal achievement, it would be impossible to eclipse ALL THAT JAZZ, but STAR 80 is a powerful companion piece, both as an artistic document of Stratten and Snider's tragic tale and as a rumination on the horrific life that could-have-been for Fosse. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

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