Monday, September 7, 2009

The Star (1952)

Bette Davis stars in a film that is apparently supposed to be a thinly veiled portrait of Joan Crawford. That alone makes this movie a must-see.

Well, not really. Bette Davis plays Margaret Eliot, a now has-been actress who is struggling to keep afloat, but through her renewed romance with former co-star Jim Johannson (Sterling Hayden), she may realize that love is more important than fame.

The film itself is one big cheese-fest, with Bette Davis showing why she may be one of the greatest actresses who ever lived. She may be over the top, but she is insanely entertaining here. I mean, this film has a scene where (I kid you not) Bette Davis throws her mooching sister and brother-in-law out of her house then grabs her Oscar and says "Come on Oscar, let's you and me get drunk!" only to cut to Bette Davis driving around the Hollywood hills with her Oscar propped up on the dashboard and a bottle of booze in her hand.

It may be the greatest scene in the history of film.

Ok, to be serious for a moment. Bette Davis is the only reason to see this movie. It's a corny, soapy film that Davis elevates by actually giving a good performance. Granted, it's over-the-top, but it can get a bit of a pass because she's an actress, and generally people in the arts can be over-the-top (or so says any movie review in which someone is playing an actor/dancer/artist). But aside from that, the film is pretty dull. Her romance with Jim lacks any sort of spark and Sterling Hayden (I keep expecting to write Sterling-Cooper) is wooden in a role that's not particularly fleshed out. The actual plot is pretty shallow too, and only really entertains on a pure campiness level, like when Margaret gets a role in a film as a frump, but she tries to sex it up using her hair, make-up, and costume only to watch the dailies and fall screaming to the floor.

To put it plainly, this is a film you could easily skip, unless maybe you are hardcore Bette Davis fan (like I am) and you're interested in seeing her Oscar nominated performance. But other than that, unless what I just described sounds like your idea of a good film, it's a pass. Campy entertainment and not much else.

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