Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1979. Twentieth Century Fox. Story by Bill Kerby, Screenplay by Bo Goldman, Bill Kerby. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Produced by Aaron Russo, Marvin Worth. Production Design by Richard Macdonald. Costume Design by Theoni V. Aldredge. Film Editing by Carroll Timothy O’Meara, Robert L. Wolfe. Academy Awards 1979. Golden Globe Awards 1979.
Thinly veiled biography of Janis Joplin is also the screen debut of the marvelous Bette Midler. She plays a tough-talking, fast-living rock singer whose combination of hard-hitting soul and rock-n-roll have made her the toast of the airwaves and concert stages. Behind the scenes, however, she is beset by depression and a sore lack of intimacy with anyone around her. Midler’s energy never flails for a moment, and she really puts across quite an impressive performance that is unlike anything she’s done onscreen since. Also amazing is the collection of songs, some new and some standards, that she sings beautifully on the soundtrack. Frederic Forrest is terrific as her best friend and Alan Bates (in the only film he ever shot in America) effective as her manager. The screenplay tends to ride on a few too many biography cliches, but director Mark Rydell keeps it bumping along steadily enough to avoid their actually being too much of a problem.