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Mark Rydell
Bette Midler, Frederic Forrest, Alan Bates, Harry Dean Stanton, David Keith
Writing Credits:
Bill Kerby and Bo Goldman

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

The tragic life of a self-destructive female rock star who struggles to deal with the constant pressures of her career and the demands of her ruthless business manager.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/19/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director Mark Rydell
• Interview with Actor Bette Midler
• Interview with Director Mark Rydell
• Interview with Director of Photography Vilmos Zsigmond
• 1978 Today Show Excerpt
• 1979 Gene Shalit Interview with Bette Midler

• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Rose: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2015)

Technically, 1979’s The Rose didn’t offer Bette Midler’s cinematic debut, but for all intents and purposes, it marked the singer’s first movie. She’d acted in a religious satire called The Thorn a few years earlier, but that effort got no real theatrical exhibition and would’ve probably never been seen without Midler’s subsequent fame.

The Rose introduces us to a famous rock singer named Mary Rose Foster (Midler), known professionally just as “The Rose”. Exhausted and addled by the abuse of various substances, Rose begs her manager Rudge Campbell (Alan Bates) for a break, but he refuses to let her take off any time.

Thus we follow Rose across her final tour as it builds toward a much-hyped show in her Florida hometown. We also see Rose’s nascent romance with limo driver/AWOL soldier Huston Dyer (Frederic Forrest) as she tries to cope with her problematic lifestyle choices.

Since 1979, Midler has shown herself to be an adept, skilled comedic actor. As a dramatic talent, I think she works less well, and The Rose doesn’t change my mind.

Midler never feels especially real as the lead part. She overacts pretty relentlessly, and even in “serious” moments, she shows a skewed comedic feel. I don’t quite buy into Rose’s sadness and downward spiral because I don’t accept Midler. She’s just too campy and broad for me to accept her as a believable character.

Most of Midler’s co-stars follow suit. Forrest plays a pretty standard issue hick, and Bates brings us a hard-nosed rock manager with a distinctly Spinal Tap feel. None of them create characters who feel real or memorable.

It doesn’t help that the movie feels like little more than a loose conglomeration of scenes. Granted, some of that makes sense, as Rose offers a bit of a “tour diary”, but nonetheless, the lack of concrete narrative doesn’t serve the material well.

I think the basis of a good tale exists here, especially since Rose doesn’t attempt to be a big, broad biography of the character. I like the emphasis on a short period of time and how this final tour affects Rose.

Unfortunately, we just get vague glimpses of Rose’s life without much substance to connect the dots. At times, the film feels like a collection of musical performances with occasional character moments to connect them.

That trend decreases as the movie goes, but I still think we get way more concert material than we need, as a little of that footage goes a long way. I don’t really buy Midler as a rock star anyway; while obviously talented, she doesn’t seem especially convincing as a Joplin-esque blues belter. She’s more realistic as a rock star than Barbra Streisand, but that’s faint praise.

I have to chalk up The Rose as a disappointment. It lacks compelling characters or situations and its talented actors never fare especially well. I’m glad it helped get Bette Midler into movies, but I much prefer her comedic work to her unconvincing attempts at drama.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Rose appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good representation of the source.

Sharpness mostly looked fine. Some shots came across as a bit soft and ill defined, but those instances didn’t occur with any great frequency, and they occasionally seemed to reflect the original photography, as the movie sometimes opted for a gauzy look. While not the world’s most precise image, it appeared positive.

I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a good layer of grain, I sensed no digital noise reduction, and the movie came free from print flaws. From start to finish, this remained a clean presentation.

Rose featured a fairly natural palette, and most of the tones came across as accurate. While I couldn’t say the hues impressed, the colors seemed largely accurate.

Black levels were deep and dark, and low-light sequences followed along the same lines. Shadow detail seemed smooth and demonstrated good clarity within the restrictions of the source photography. Overall, the image showed some age-related drawbacks but still came across well.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Rose seemed mostly limited in scope, as the majority of the movie essentially offered monaural audio. Dialogue remained rooted in the center, and a lot of effects stayed there as well.

However, the mix did open up occasionally. Concerts allowed crowd noise to pop up from all five channels, and a few other sequences – like those with helicopters – also boasted nice movement and localization.

Music also broadened well. The songs spread across the front speakers in a satisfying stereo manner that presented them in a positive manner.

Audio quality appeared acceptable for the era. Speech was a little thin but always sounded clear and easily intelligible, and I noticed no problems with brittleness or other issues. Effects played a small role in the movie, but they seemed reasonably accurate and clean. I heard no concerns connected to distortion from those elements.

Music seemed full and rich for the most part; I would’ve liked a bit more low-end, but that’s a minor quibble. In the end, the movie offered a pretty positive soundtrack given its age and ambitions.

As we shift to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Mark Rydell. Recorded for a 2003 DVD, he offers a running, screen-specific look at the project’s path to the screen, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, editing and cinematography, and related topics.

At times, Rydell includes some decent details, but he makes enough factually incorrect remarks that I find it hard to trust his other memories. For instance, he believes that Frederic Forrest got work with Francis Coppola because of The Rose even though Forrest had already shot The Conversation and Apocalypse Now with Coppola before he appeared in Rose.

Even more bizarre, Rydell claims that he got offered The Rose 15 years before he made it but he insisted on the use of Bette Midler and the studio refused. This makes no sense, as Midler was still a teenager in Hawaii circa 1964 and Janis Joplin – the singer on whom the movie was based – was completely unknown at that time. Never mind that Rydell was still a TV actor/director in 1964 as well and not someone in a position to dictate terms to a movie studio.

Even if I ignore these mistaken memories, the commentary flops because Rydell gives us too little good information. He tends to simply praise the movie and boost his own status as a filmmaker. We don’t get nearly enough worthwhile material to overcome all the commentary’s flaws.

Three modern interviews appear next, and the first comes with actor Bette Midler. In this 17-minute, 10-second chat, Midler discusses how she came onto the film, influences and doing the movie’s songs, aspects of her performance, working with Rydell, her co-stars, costumes and some production areas. Midler doesn’t provide any revelations, but she offers an engaging enough little discussion.

From 2014, we hear more from director Mark Rydell. This reel lasts 16 minutes, eight seconds and includes Rydell’s remarks about his involvement in the project, cast and crew, the film’s look, shooting musical numbers, and other aspects of his life/career. This never becomes a great conversation, but it’s tighter and more interesting than Rydell’s commentary.

We also get an interview with director of photography Vilmos Szigmond. During this 30-minute, 28-second piece, Szigmond talks with fellow John Bailey about the script, locations and performances but he mostly focuses on photography-related areas. This tends to trot down the technical side of the street, but I enjoy the chance to hear two professionals discuss their trade.

Two vintage segments come next. A 1978 Today Show Excerpt fills four minutes, 52 seconds as it takes us to the movie’s set. Other than some quick comments from Rydell and Midler, the piece focuses on aspects of the shoot on New York. It becomes a decent like glimpse of the production.

We finish with a 1979 Gene Shalit Interview with Bette Midler. It goes for 14 minutes, eight seconds and looks at her performance and related aspects of the movie. Given its place as a TV chat, it doesn’t boast a ton of depth, but I like it due to its “period immediacy”; it’s good to hear thoughts from the period in which the movie debuted.

The package concludes with a 12-page booklet. It boasts photos, credits and an essay from critic Paula Mejia. The booklet complements the set well.

How could a movie about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll be boring? I don’t know, but The Rose fails to become anything interesting, even with some strong talent behind it. The Blu-ray provides good picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. I’m glad I finally saw The Rose after 35 years, but the film does little for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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