Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bette Midler in The Rose

Bette Midler, also known as The Divine Miss M received her first Best Actress nomination for playing Mary Rose Foster, "The Rose", a tortured singer modeled after the late Janis Joplin in the movie The Rose. Although The Rose was obviously made as an Oscar vehicle for Bette Midler, Sally Field's Norma Rae stood in the way of Bette's Oscar dreams. Nevetheless, Bette was able to gain tons of fans of this work of hers and her supporters must have been backing her while voting though I suppose that wasn't enough to get ahead of Sally. Still, I believe Bette was a close second.

The Rose is a movie that doesn't offer anything revolutionary in its genre though I believe it's much better than Lady Sings The Blues (a movie made with very similar goals for the famous lead actress). At least the filmmakers in this case had the decency not to claim it was an autobiography so that they can adjust it to Bette Midler's talent and persona. Mark Rydell's never been a favorite of mine (the only film of his I enjoy is On Golden Pond, but that's mostly because the autobiographical connections with the Fondas) and this film is definitely not his masterpiece. Although sometimes it's painfully dragging along, it's intense enough occasionally to capture the viewer's imagination (I must add, though, that it can be because of The Rose's character and Bette's performance). Frederick Forrest gives a really proper performance that adds lots of balance to do movie and balances the over-the-top acting of Bette excellently. A well-deserved Oscar nomination.

And we have Bette Midler in her first big starring role as The Rose. At that point, Bette was no stranger to show business, having won Gramys and gaining acclaim for her work on stage. Since she was already a big star, it was time for her to break into the film industry as well and I believe there wasn't a better role for her to achieve that goal. It obviously has Oscar written all over it and it's very similar to the case of Diana Ross in 1972. Take the tragic life of a singer, adjust it a little bit to the lead actress and you can sit back and enjoy the superlatives. However, there's an undeniable difference between the two ladies: unlike Ross, Bette's talents are not restricted only to music, she's also a damn brilliant actress. Bette Midler essentially embodies everything that show business is all about: outrageous comedy, over-the-top drama, towering presence, singing, dancing, love, laughter and death.

Unfortunately, I'm not acquainted with Bette's singing career, but from what I heard, her songs are not the most earth-shattering rock records. While Mary Rose Foster's style couldn't be more different from what Bette's used to, The Divine Miss M's singing rock like nobody's business. I suppose this is the point when I can criticise myself why Bette's singing mattered here and why Marion's lip-syncing didn't in La vie en rose. Since people probably expected basically Bette's performance from Marion, it must have been quite a disappointment. However, Bette had an advantage over Marion: in Mary Rose Foster, she created a brand new character whose life was loosely based on that of Janis Joplin. It would have been just as difficult to imitate Janis' real voice (even for a brilliant singer like Bette), but Midler did something even more important: she evokes Janis Joplin's dazzling, fantastic aura that makes it so easy to understand why the whole world went crazy for her. Bette's turn is a Star Turn with a capital S and a capital T. :)

Not only does Midler perfectly recreate Janis' star power on the screen, she also points out spectacularly why people are so obsessed with this singer or any other star that they run on stage to touch her, too feel her close to them. Midler so effortlessly concludes that it's not only Janis Joplin that she recreated in The Rose. It's also The Rolling Stones, The Beatles or even stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna or Lady Gaga. Bette draws a perfect portrait of ultimate stardom: she portrays all the love towards stars, but also how this immense fame isolates them from the rest of society. In the end, The Rose is just as isolated and as much of an outcast as a homeless person.

And if you thought that this all was enough for a spectacular performance, you don't know the half of it. :) Bette brilliantly shows addiction and how damaging alcohol and drugs are to The Rose. She doesn't hold back at all and mercilessly reveals the torture of this woman, making this movie a real emotional roller coaster. The Rose is a real wreck in every possible way and her breakdowns are real treats for anyone who loves over-the-top acting. Although it's true that there isn't one subtle moment in Bette's performance, I think this chaos has an even greater effect on the viewer. I must quickly add, though, that Bette is perfectly aware of how far she can go and even though she's almost crossing the line, she manages to remain believable and harrowing instead of total crazy overacting.

The more tender and playful moments of this film come when Frederick Forrest enters the screen as Houston, the boyfriend of The Rose. His presence brings balance to the movie and Bette's performance and these two are playing off each other wonderfully and they show how these two people are changing each other's lives.

That being said, the most painful and harrowing moments of the movie comes when The Rose returns to her hometown. The Rose's desire of proving her own greatness to her folks at home is brilliantly portrayed by Bette and that's what makes her scene at the store just as painful as her phone call from the football field where she's nothing short of spectacular: she's able to show vulnerability and suffering so painfully that one just keeps marvelling at the intensity of Bette's performance. At the bottom, she holds everything back. This breakdown is different from everything that we saw from The Rose: it's not loud, not over-the-top, it's something deeper and more disturbing. Witnessing the last hours of a person's life is always hard for the viewer but Bette makes it almost unbearable. I tell you all, it's probably the greatest scene I've witnessed since the start of these reviews (it's up there with Jane's tape scene from Klute).

This intensity is what makes the very last scene of Bette even more cathartic and uplifting: what you can hear is just a divine voice that changed many lives. The death of The Rose is inevitable and Bette's singing makes it so dramatic and earth-shattering that only compares to an opera. And this is Midler's greatest achievement: showing all the emotions of a human being with her over-the-top but ultimately mindblowing acting.

All in all, Bette Midler's performance is a real emotional roller coaster that's outstanding in every possible way and does so seeming natural all the time. She's everything that people like to see on screen, she indeed sings, dances and dies. I could mention her loud breakdowns, her amazing singing or her tender moments with Frederick Forrest, it wouldn't describe properly how fantastic she is. It's indeed a piece of work that make Bette perfectly deserving of the title of "The Divine Miss M" and also a big

What do you think? :) 


Louis Morgan said...

This is certainly a performance with nothing held back. I would really have to watch this film again to be absolutely sure of her performance, but Midler certainly gives a unique performance here that is quite striking to say the least.

mrripley said...

A fabtastic ott turn form s star who is not allowed to stop being the wise cracker,my 2nd choice.

Fritz said...

I haven't seen her yet but she sounds like a winner :)

dinasztie said...

Fritz: She surely does though we'll see if she also becomes THE winner. :))

Anonymous said...

She should. She was brilliant in this movie.

RatedRStar said...

I believe this is the first time ive ever commented on this specific blog (im not really an actress no it all lol) its awesome just so you know =)

As for The Rose, I liked it mostly, I thought she was kind of badass =D

dinasztie said...

Thanks RatedRStar! :D Glad to have you with us. :)

Anonymous said...

I never got over the movie The Rose. To this day every time I hear Bette Midler sing "Stay With Me Baby" I get chills.