Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Midler is impressive but "Rose" is a downer

Cleveland Press December 24, 1979

"The Rose" is a lengthy, frequently exhausting look at a burnt-out rock star in the throes of self destruction.

It also is a close look at the rotten underbelly of the rock music scene.

While it builds to a dramatic climax and recreates the rock concert scene with all of its excitement and noise, it is ultimately a very depressing movie.

For Bette Midler it is an impressive film debut. The character she plays is not attractive, is really rather hateful. But Midler endows her with enough feeling, enough reality that there is a certain fascination about her even in the character's repulsiveness.

The movie loosely parallels points in the life of Janis Joplin, but "The Rose" has enough in it to stand on its own.

Midler portrays an ambitious, self-centered person surrounded by people more ambitious and self-centered than she. Perfectly understandable is her desire to call a halt, to stop and rest.

But the movie makes clear that a large part of her problem is her own self indulgence and her lack of discipline.

"The Rose" is a picture of the rock music world as one filled with booze, sex and drugs and it is a world about as attractive as the sight of an oozing infection.

Alan Bates plays the rock star's manager, a man who pushes and maneuvers her. It's a role that doesn't seem right for him and therefore It doesn't work as it should.

Frederic Forrest stands out as the outsider who enters her life and gives her a momentary feeling of self worth.

What the picture lacks is any sense of why any of it happened. The story occupies the last few days in the star's life. She is first seen tottering off a plane, half drunk and the kind of success of which legends are made. The movie then makes its way toward her inevitable on stage death due to an overdose of drugs. Except through an occasional remark the film says nothing about how she got to this precarious peak.

The movie runs long enough that it could have explored what must have been a colorful and interesting rise to fame.

What we have instead is a series of repetitive portraits -- Midler uttering obscenities, Midler half stoned, Midler momentarily happy, Midler falling apart again.

The rock concert scenes have been expertly staged and Midler does them in a gutsy, profane, abandoned, exhausting style that gives the feeling she's been doing them all her life.

But for all of the considerable heat she generates; she can't -- all by herself -- give "'The Rose" what it most needs. Like so much of rock music, it has more noise than meaning.