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Excellent if flawed.

It's the story of Karen Carpenter's death from anorexia done with Barbie Dolls. It had a great emotional pull, but there were a few technical issues with the film – for example, there'd be screens of text with information on anorexia, which, while informative, were incredibly hard to read. The text didn't have any borders around it, and the colors he chose would blend in with the colors of the background, so the text would end up getting washed out. I thought these also took you out of the film a bit. (On the subject of text, another odd thing was how the film opened with a screen of text telling the audience what his film intends to do – it seemed strange to me, since a film isn't an academic essay. You don't need to say "In this film, I intend to show that…"; just show us!)

The other things I didn't quite like as much were mainly stylistic; there was a clip of stock footage edited in from the Vietnam War and different stock footage (possible also from the Vietnam War? It was difficult to tell.) of a dead woman falling into a ditch and being dragged away. I think this was to Set The Stage that it was the 1970s to late 1980s as well as draw parallels between anorexia/society/body image, but it struck me as rather pretentious. On a similar line, there are occasional interviews with people either about Karen Carpenter herself or anorexia in general, but these are all done with real people (meaning human beings, not dolls). I think the film would have been slightly more successful on this front had every person been replaced with a Barbie doll – keep everything else the same, the audio and the superimposed titles; just replace the photographs with those of dolls that look vaguely like the person. It'd help keep up the fiction of the setting.

But like I said, these are all very minor quibbles, and the film was very well done. There was a lot of great emotional pull and despite being played by dolls, the characters were real. It's about the only film about anorexia I've seen that actually makes the anorexic sympathetic. In most of these types of projects (granted, they're mainly After-School Specials or Very Special Episodes of awful sitcoms), and I'm not sure if this is by incompetence or design, the anorexic character is a shrill, vapid twit shrieking "OH MY GOD I AM SO FAT OH MY GOD!!!!! YOU JUST WANT TO MAKE ME FAT!!1 WAAAAAH!" throughout the entire film until they die, and the audience tends to think "Good riddance!"

Todd Haynes, on the other hand, actually decided to not only make Karen Carpenter REAL (admittedly, this shouldn't be too difficult considering she actually was real, heh); he also showed why she might have been anorexic and what experiences and emotions she was dealing with. Her family (especially Richard) comes off as rather cruel and psychotic, and I am wagering this is why Richard sued to ban the film – officially, it was over the uncleared use of the Carpenters' music in the film, though.

This film is very powerful. It's much better than you're probably thinking; the Barbie doll gimmick is useful for getting people to want to see it, but rest assured that the film is actually very successful as a film and not just a puppet show. I cannot recommend it enough – after all, my handful of complaints about it are all relatively minor; anyway, I think this was Haynes' first film, which excuses a lot of the rough technical and stylistic stuff – I wish my first short were as well done as this. And one final thing to recommend it: It's got a lot of Carpenters' songs in it, and I really dig them. I do not care if you think I am square for it. I will just think you haven't actually sat down and listened to the Carpenters.

Also: For those interested in seeing this film, Illegal Art is selling a DVD-R; it's $30, but it IS tax-deductable. And it's going to a good cause; mainly an organization that is working to strengthen Fair Use and whatnot. So if you wanted to see Superstar, along with a bunch of other short films of varying quality, here's your chance. They also have a BitTorrent Link for folks who want to download the film for free.