Karen Carpenter: Starving For Perfection
Randy Martin's documentary on the music icon doesn't provide anything new, but is still made with a lot of passion. It played at the recent Heartland Film Festival.
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Karen Carpenter’s voice is one of the most recognizable in the world of music, alongside Michael Jackson, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Whitney Houston. Unfortunately, her legacy was cut short when she passed away at the age of 32. Carpenter’s battles with anorexia have been well-chronicled through the years, acclaimed filmmaker Todd Haynes became an underground sensation when he was a mere student when he made “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” an experimental biopic with a cast consisting entirely of Barbie dolls.
Unfortunately, it seems that our modern culture, for how progressive we’ve become in recognizing accepting, and understanding other things, has never seemed to be able to fully grasp eating disorders. Randy Martin’s documentary “Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection” walks a tightrope, wanting to do just to Carpenter’s legacy as well as handle anorexia with much sensitivity.
The end result is slight but sincere, fans of Carpenter’s music are unlikely to learn anything new about the famed singer. Although the filmmakers bring in several familiar faces such as the late Oliva Newton-John and Suzanne Somers, Carol Burnett, Belinda Carlisle, and Kristin Chenoweth each giving their own stories and insights about Carpenter and her legacy.
Perhaps the most fascinating is Cynthia Gibb’s interview, who talks about playing Karen Carpenter in the television film “The Karen Carpenter Story,” and how Carpenter’s parents may have sanitized the story to protect their image.
As for the filmmaking, it does feel a bit too safe and traditional. There’s much more to Carpenter’s story than what is presented in the interview, and there’s a lot of information here that can easily be found on a Wikipedia page.
There is much to admire about “Starving for Perfection,” despite some of its shortcomings, the passion is evident and the film even includes several never-before-seen audio interviews with Carpenter that end up leaving a large impact. However, there’s nothing about this documentary that feels definitive and it isn’t always effective at tugging on your heart-strings.