Saturday, July 8, 2017

Papa Mike's Video #18: Bob Fosse's STAR 80

(This is technically an "archive" review, one that I wrote back in 2010, and this was on a copy I didn't get from "Papa Mike's Video" but just one I got somewhere else, I don't remember where.  But I rewatched it for the first time in seven years last night from a copy at the fake-video store of the title, and my reaction to that is... this is Bob Fosse's Raging Bull.  A masterpiece that makes you feel really awful and unclean and sad for the state of what men and women are in society, particularly when men are at their fucking worst.)

Review may contain spoilers below 

Bob Fosse somehow is attracted to stories about people who have inner demons, be it Lenny Bruce or a version of himself in All That Jazz or here with Paul Snider. It's interesting to note that Fosse saw himself in Snider (that is if he didn't become successful), who was on first sight a smooth-talking dude in a mustache and expensive suits who is one step away from being a full-blown pimp.

As it was, Snider thought of himself too classy of a kind of sleaze to do anything too illegal, but it didn't stop him from courting a girl much younger than him, Dorothy Stratten, plucking her from a Dairy Queen, sweeping her off her feet to the prom, and then amping up her self-esteem to become a Playboy playmate. But as it turns out- and whose to say how much of this really is the real Snider or, horrific as it is to contemplate, Fosse- his insecurities became projected tenfold onto Stratten's success.

It's a study in jealousy and a volatile mindset that may make one think back to Raging Bull for comparison. But in the case of Star 80, we don't get even much of the eventual sliver of redemption from Jake LaMotta. Here, the story of (spoiler) Dorothy Stratten's murder by Snider is put up right at the start, as Fosse keeps cutting back to Snider, blood dripping from his face, ranting and raving to himself about her making him do it, surrounded by her photographs on the wall.

It's a disturbing movie that is most successful at what it does because of Fosse's interesting approach to non-linear storytelling (as with Lenny it cuts back and forth in time, between interview and dramatization, always with actors playing the character), and the acting. It's not necessarily a film that leaves you with feeling anything except the cold and harsh side of a romance in Hollywood gone bad, but Fosse makes it tougher, more complex to take, than your average bio-pic.

Arguably, Eric Roberts steals the show, but then he's playing a character who does that by necessity. At one point Snider is trying to get permission from Dorothy's mother for Dorothy to get the Playboy pictures, and she's hesitant. He says, "I love (her)". She asks what he said as he was muffled and he says, "I love her." "Oh, I thought you said you "love *it*". That's a key to the character; he doesn't love Dorothy so much- it's more like an obsessive's manic-depressive reaction to love- as he does the idea of fame and glamour, of getting an all-access pass to Hugh Hefner and the Playboy mansion, and possibly setting up a health spa named after his suffering wife.

By the token of how fascinatingly rotten Snider is, Roberts knocks it out of the park. But Hemingway, as Stratten, is also very good, showing a further level of emotional depth she can reach after her debut in Manhattan. Here she's wise but vulnerable, a small town girl pushed into stardom and bewildered by a smooth-talking guy with a nice car (it's also good to note the lack of a father figure, one Snider uncannily fills in).

Fosse tells the story in a way that is always engaging, keeping the audience on its toes for what part of the story might come next. But it's also his knack at evoking a side of life that is a little more crude- the strip clubs (for men AND women respectively), the trashy girls Snider has on the side, the flashy suits, Rod Stewart's disco song on the radio- and making the period rich, even as it was just a few years before the film was made.

It might be a time capsule, but it's a story that Fosse knows holds true: sometimes men can be bad news, especially when infidelity (whether real or not, another parallel with Raging Bull) comes into play. It's sad and tense, hard to watch near the end but an important little movie, sadly as well Fosse's last.

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