The Rose (1979)

the rose poster 1979 movie bette midler
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10


Typical biopic story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Rose

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s): November 9, 1979

MPAA Rating:  R

the rose movie bette midler bar scene

Who’s ready to rock?

Mary “The Rose” Foster (Bette Midler) is a star.  Her music and style have attracted legions of fans and her outlandish behavior also appeals to the crowd.  While Rose is on top of the musical world, Rose’s personal life is a mess.  Haunted by her childhood, pushed too hard, and dealing with alcohol abuse, Rose is debating giving her whole musical life up.  Rose meets a limo driver named Huston Dyer (Frederic Forrest) who starts to change Rose’s life once again, but a concert at her hometown is looming Rose’s future and going home isn’t easy.

Directed by Mark Rydell, The Rose is a musical drama.  The film is loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin (the film was originally called Pearl but Joplin’s family didn’t give the film permission to make a biopic).  The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Midler), Best Supporting Actor (Forrest), Best Sound, and Best Film Editing.  A remastered version of the film was released by Criterion (Criterion #757).

Janis Joplin was an interesting woman…but since we can’t get a movie about Joplin, The Rose is the next best thing.  While the tortured artist storyline is typical, a great performance elevates The Rose.

the rose drag queen bette midler

Two Roses are better than one!

The Rose is not Janis Joplin.  That is the first thing to remember in the viewing of The Rose.  The character is very Janis Joplin but the story isn’t really her life.  If you go into the movie purely expecting a “true story”, you won’t get it…but the story holds a lot of the energy and themes of Joplin’s life.  It is someone who cannot handle their own fame.

It is easy to forget that Bette Midler rose up in music and stage.  The ’80s were good to Midler who was in a string of successful movies, but The Rose was her actual first big stab at a role.  With that being known, her performance is great and it is quite possible that she’s never been better.  It was a perfect blend for her…it is great that it turned into an original role, but it would have also been good to see her actually playing Joplin.  The performance is backed by a nice supporting cast including Forrest as the man improving her life and sometimes wrecking it.  Alan Bates is Rose’s frustrated manager and Harry Dean Stanton has a small role as a contemporary performer and critic.

the rose final concert bette midler

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!

The movie has that great ’70s look to it despite being at the end of the decade.  Set in ’69, Rose is supposed to be representative of the hippie culture that is still under attack by Middle America.  The film has a grungy, dark, and raw look that really gets to the core of her character.

The Rose is a good movie with a great performance in it.  The format of the movie is pretty typical today when it seems like every tortured performer has a biopic (there have been years and years of attempts to actually bring Janis Joplin’s story to the screen).  Midler gives it all, and The Rose is the great result of those efforts.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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