Cedar Rapids Gazette Weekly News Magazine
January 16, 1980
It may not be true that inside every superstar there’s a horribly insecure person who has to use sex, drugs and booze to cope with success, fame and riches.
It may not be true, but it’s still an idea that can make a pretty good soap opera in the right hands, and the hands responsible for “The Rose” are the right ones.
Bette Midler is especially impressive in her film debut, whether on stage, singing in a gutsy late ’60s hard-rock style or offstage, swilling tequila and bouncing roughly between the people she needs and loves.
Midler’s “Rose” character is obviously patterned after the late Janis “Pearl” Joplin. Although the movie is very careful never to mention Joplin, Rose has adopted her style of dressing, singing and, according to reports, living.
Rose is rather plain by conventional standards, a hard-drinking, fast-living, foul-mouthed woman who’s full of contradictions.
She protests to her manager, Rudge (Alan Bates), that she’s overworked and wants a year off the tour, something he refuses to give her. But when Dyer (Frederic Forrest), the man she really cares for, shows her a way to get what she claims she wants, she can’t face the thought of giving up her stardom. She doesn’t appear to be concerned about the
money, but she desperately heeds the acclaim and the acceptance she gets from people as a performer.
She claims to be a sensitive person, but she’s got a wide streak of violence. She’s perfectly capable of smashing a bottle into a stranger’s face when he propositions her; and she does it like swatting a-fly, not because of what he suggested so much as because he irritated her.
She says she’s just looking for a man who will love and accept her, but when she finds one she turns him away – no small task.
It doesn’t add up to a very sympathetic character, and the Rose isn’t.
By the time the movie draws to its inevitable climax, the viewer, like members of Rose’s troupe, is likely to be a little weary of the constant harping, boozing and whining.
Bates and Forrest provide good support for Midler, and the concert scenes are extremely well done. There are a lot of songs, many of them original. “The Rose” isn’t a movie for people who don’t like bad language or good rock.