Star 80 [1983]

Director: Bob Fosse
Stars: Mariel Hemingway, Eric Roberts, Cliff Robertson, Carroll Baker, Roger Rees
Genre: Biography, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 103 minutes

Legendary director/dancer/choreographer Bob Fosse may have been a consummate entertainer, responsible for popular productions on the Broadway stage, but he was also an uncompromising filmmaker who wasn't afraid to explore the dark side of humanity. After the autobiographical intensity of All That Jazz, Fosse's final film was this honest and painfully authentic biography about Dorothy Stratten, who was Playboy's Playmate of the Year for 1979 and had just begun a promising film career when her jealous boyfriend took a shotgun to her head. Fosse tackles this brutal reality head on, opening the film with the aftermath of murder and telling the story in flashback, beginning in Vancouver when slick charmer Paul Snider (Eric Roberts, in a chilling performance) discovers Dorothy (Mariel Hemingway) and makes her his ticket to fame and unearned glory. He's a loser and a user, and when Dorothy rises to success and glamour at the Playboy mansion, Hugh Hefner (Cliff Robertson, perfectly cast) urges the blonde beauty to drop her troublesome boyfriend. Jealousy and rejection push Paul over the edge, but Star 80 (the title is taken from Snider's vanity license plates) is no simple tale of male ego gone bad. Fosse explores the chasm between fame and obscurity, and the self-destructive lengths to which some people will go to bridge that gap. The film is a darker telling of the kind of story Boogie Nights would tell nearly 15 years later--both films are set in the late '70s and early '80s, and both deal with the inevitable loss of innocence in a world where innocence cannot survive. In a bleak but fascinating way, Star 80 is masterful in its refusal to look away from the tragedy of its true story. It's a farewell statement from a director who clearly understood the high cost of stardom. --Jeff Shannon

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