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BetteBack March 27, 1980: “The Rose”: a powerful personification

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Marshall Evening Chronicle
March 27, 1980


During the turbulant social upheaval of the late 1960’s American teenagers found an em optional release in the anarchy of rock music. In her starrin g film debut, Bette Midler paints a depressing but powerful composite portrait of the female rock singers of th at era in “The Rose.”

Midler is totally believable in the title role, based primarily on the life of the late hard-rocking, hard-living Janis Joplin. The movie pulls absolutely no punches, as it graphically cuts through the veneered rock star image of glitter and bright lights to reveal an un­derlying vulnerability and emptiness rarely seen by the adoring public.

Unprepared audiences may be shocked by the explicit la n g u a g e throughout the film. Some may also be offended by the events that transpire, but “ The Rose’’ can hardly be called a dirty movie’. Instead, it is a realistic and uncom promising representation of the life and death of a rock star.

The movie takes its audience along on a concert tour of city after city, night after night, and Midler is the star –
The Rose. Garbed in gaudy, flowing outfits, she has to fill up on booze and pills before each performance, and then
gives her adoring fans everything she has left before staggering off stage.

Either the lifestyle, the drugs, the pressure of performing or probably a combination of the three, turns The Rose into a Jeckle-Hyde personality.

One moment she’s laughing, the next she’s screaming in anger. At best she is unpredictable.

Before one concert her manager carefully explains that a lot of important people are in the audience, and the television cameras will be wat­ching.

“ So don’t say m — f okay Rose?” he pleads.

She nods, struts out on stage to the c h e e rs an d m u sic , g ra b s th e microphone and yells at the top of her
bountiful lungs, “ Hi, you m — f——!’’

Whipping the young audience into a frenzy with her soulful rendition of ‘When a Man Loves a Woman” , she starts a chant of “ Drugs, Sex, Rock & Roll” , a phrase she has learned to live by Rose placés her equally volatile manager on the thorns of a dilemma when she tries to convince him she needs to take a year off the tour to rest.

With three million dollars at stake, he disagrees.

But Rose meets and falls in love with Houston Dyer (Fredric Forrest), a limousine driver who is AWOL from the army, and she is determined to go away with him after an upcoming concert in her hometown.

Houston and the concert become the most important things in her murky life. In him , she has finally found someone who doesn’t care about her past and present reputation. In the concert, she will at last show everyone back home that she is a star.

Unfortunately, things don’t work out as she plans, and the faded Rose becomes a faded star. It is easy to see why
Bette Midler was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Her credibility can never once be questioned, and her remarkable outpouring of energy is never below 100 percent.

She is not just a singer who thinks she can become an actress, a la Diana Ross, Michelle Phillips, et al. She is an
actress who can also sing, and she carries the film.

“ The Rose ” may cause some audiences to blush with its honesty, but written any other way it would never

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