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Tagline: She gave and gave, until she had nothing left to give

Preshow Entertainment: Bowling For Soup: Live and Very Attractive.

Pizza: Marcelino's


The tagline tells you the ending. An ending we've seen a hundred times, maybe even a thousand. A star is born, walks the line, and then falls. It's every E! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY and VH-1 BEHIND THE MUSIC. Hell, I just watched THE RUNAWAYS yesterday and there it was again. Honestly, I'm a little tired of it. We all have our problems, why should I watch yours? Unless, of course, you're so talented that you can embody the character and in turn make me actually care about you. You know, like the way Bette Midler became Mary Rose Foster, a/k/a The Rose.

There's a scene in a roadside diner where the patrons see Rose as a slattern. Imagine Courtney Love walking into a Waffle House in the 1960's South. That's part of the reason THE ROSE (1979) doesn't have the impact it had thirty years ago. We see it nightly on TMZ and, okay, on CNN. There are TV shows called INTERVENTION and CELEBRITY REHAB. We've witnessed Amy's frequent trips to her Winehouse and Courtney Love her drugs. And we were all there to watch Lindsey hit her all time Lohan right before our very eyes. So, sadly, much of the bloom has left THE ROSE. But that said...

It's still a pretty good movie, despite the opening 20 minutes which looks like a student film (bizarre, as famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond shot it). And our intro to Rose is as cliche as it can get; last off the plane, alone and obviously drunk off her ass, she hits her head, then falls on the stairs, and finally...drops her bottle of booze. She might as well have hit us over the head with that bottle. But with that behind us, the movie picks up speed nicely. And it's clear - we're coming in at the beginning of the end. Rose is doomed.

We soon learn that all this touring and boozing is too much for Rose. She wants a year off, but because it's all about money, her manager Rudge (the always great Alan Bates) won't budge, refusing to let her take time off. But no delicate petal she, Rose is more like a force to be reckoned with. This is not to say she doesn't have a fragile side. When recording artist Billy Ray (Harry Dean Stanton) shoots her ego in the head, Rose is gobsmacked.
She doesn't even know how to react. So she goes AWOL, jumping in a waiting (but not for her) limo and using it as a getaway car. She befriends and even falls for the driver, Huston (Frederic Forrest), who we learn is actually AWOL from the army. Huston doesn't care that Rose is a megastar, so he won't put up with her incessant, unmitigated neediness. Has Rose met her match?

So yes, there's a lot of cliched struggles going on (The script? Not so great). Shunned by her parents, abused by her hometown and manipulated by Rudge, she's a time bomb counting down the seconds. And it seems that everyone leaves her. Perhaps it's because she has spiraled, becoming a caterwauling, attention-seeking monster.

However, there's one place Rose comes alive, and that's when she is steam-cleaning her carpeting. No, that's not right. I don't even know where that came from. But you knew the answer: Rose comes alive on stage. The concert sequences are the best part of the movie. All the performances were, ready for this?...recorded live, and they're all thrilling. Electric and energetic, passionate and powerful, Bette makes this potentially lame movie soar. So compelling are these concert scenes that they can get away with a song (MIDNIGHT IN MEMPHIS) followed by a stage monologue (written by...surprise!...Bruce Vilanch) and then another song - the incredibly powerful, though possibly a tad too dramatic WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN.

Besides Midler, another reason these songs punch through (and hold up) so well is because of director Mark Rydell's (ON GOLDEN POND and producer of the recent UMC - THE MAN IN THE MOON) decision to use nine cameras (you heard me right...nine!), each manned by extraordinary cinematographers like Conrad Hall (COOL HAND LUKE, BUTCH CASSIDY, MARATHON MAN, AMERICAN BEAUTY), Owen Roizman (PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1,2,3, THE EXORCIST, NETWORK), Laszlo Kovacs (GHOSTBUSTERS, PAPER MOON, MASK), Vilmos Zsigmond (DELIVERANCE, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, THE DEER HUNTER, HEAVEN'S GATE) and Haskel Wexler (MATEWAN, MEDIUM COOL, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST). Holy shit.

And the concerts aren't limited to stadiums and halls. Perhaps the most fun scene is a set-piece in a female impersonator bar, where THE FIRE DOWN BELOW is performed with enough glee to make you want to jump up, put on a dress, jump on the stage and sing along with Babs.

Without the concert footage and Midler's performance, this would be a routine romp. But one more word about Midler's acting (we already know she can sing). There's a scene towards the end, in a phone booth where Rose hits rock bottom (this scene was also in THE RUNAWAYS). Clocking in at nearly ten minutes, Rose experiences desperation, depression, hope, agony, helplessness and a last shot at self-preservation, all in a claustrophobic space as her world closes in on her. It's a riveting performance, especially for someone who's on her first major acting gig. (ODD NOTE: She was actually in one movie before this, called not THE ROSE, but - THE THORN. That's just weird.)

It's no secret that Rose is a veiled Janis Joplin story (Janis was Pearl, another perfect thing of beauty). Midler wears Janis on her floppy sleeves, which conveniently segues us into the fact that there's nothing closeted about Rose's sexual orientation. It's made clear in her passing comments, and if that's not enough, her lesbian ex-lover shows up in one scene. Though the lesbianship (great name for a gay cruise, no?) is out front, it once again suffers from time. It's just not a big deal anymore. It's hard to even believe that this was a shocking story point. Maybe it wasn't...I can't remember.

And now a peevish moment. For the millions of you regular readers (well, potentially), you already know how much I get turned off by people portraying alcoholics by drinking out of the bottle. You also know that I'm going to talk about The Nic Cage School of Acting now. I try to do that in every write-up, but fail. Please, I beg your forgiveness. So yes, Rose's bottle swigging bothered me. Okay, I'm done.

Bette Midler was getting hot around the time this movie came out, but THE ROSE would light her on fire. Named after Bette Davis, it's only fitting that in the aforementioned female impersonator bar, there's a Bette Davis clone. On that note, Midler seems a lot like bratty alcoholic Baby Jane in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, especially when she isn't recognized by the store owner in her hometown or when the security guard wouldn't let her in to her own concert. She has that Bette Davis scream. Still, Midler's respected career has been spotty. But she's the kind of talent that people root for. No one wants to see her fail. She hit bigger in the late '80s with a string of movies like RUTHLESS PEOPLE, OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, BIG BUSINESS, and then sunk with crap like SCENES FROM A MALL and FOR THE BOYS. I still haven't seen chick flick BEACHES, but perhaps I will one day.

The finale is a concert in her hometown. She needs to be walked into the concert, a zombie made of self-pity and unfulfillment, heroin and alcohol. But as soon as she ascends the steps to the stage, out blossoms the rose. It's here that she sings STAY WITH ME BABY. Powerful, no doubt, but it's more than just a song. It's a moment. It's Rose pleading for someone, anyone, not to leave her.

Earlier, she's asked to go on stage at a local bar. Huston asks, "Where are you going?" Rose replies, "To do what I always do." It's all she has left. The stage. The applause and acceptance from people she's never met. And that's tragic. It's the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.

PRESHOW ENTERTAINMENT: Bowling For Soup: Live and Very Attractive

Oh boy! I love Bowling For Soup! So much so that one night, after work, I went by myself to see them. It was a great show, though I suppose I'm a little too old for them (there were parents in the crowd younger than me). But who cares? If you love something, you just love it.

An unlikely musical quartet of jesters, Bowling For Soup claim they're punk, but don't let them fool you. Would a punk band do a video for a Disney movie (SKY HIGH) and theme for a cartoon (PHINEAS AND FERB)? Nope, they're a pop act. I guess what I really love about them is that they're really smart, yet pretend to be silly. Alright, I'm not sure they're pretending, but I am sure they're smart.

Astonishingly, Bowling For Soup has been around for nearly 17 years, which is longer than most of their fan base has been alive. Led by singer/songwriter Jaret Reddick, who just may be the character model for the villain from THE INCREDIBLES, they give you a post-modern Rat Pack of off-the-cuff (but like the Rat Pack, not really off-the cuff) entertainment.

We didn't have time to watch much of the DVD, but at least we made it to their almost hit ALMOST. I did end up watching the rest, so I got to see their other hits 1985 and HIGH SCHOOL NEVER ENDS, as well as the crowd-pleasing OHIO (COME BACK TO TEXAS). The DVD is a concert/travelogue with interstitials of the band backstage or clowning around on the bus. Lots of poop jokes (they even have a number counter going) that I could have done without, but that aside, it's a fun DVD. And although they perform a constant display of circus theatrics involving plectra and guitars, they can really play (effortlessly, I may add), sing, write and perform.

Bowling For Soup is a band I would have loved to have been in. If only I were thinner...oh wait, guitarist Chris weighs in at, well, a lot. Okay, if only I were younger...oh, wait, they're probably not that much younger than me. Okay, so maybe I'll start my own band, because boys also just wanna have fun.

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