Stardom (2000) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language, and sexual content
Running time: 100 min.

Cast: Jessica Pare, Robert Lepage, Camilla Rutherford, Dan Aykroyd, Charles Berling, Thomas Gibson, Frank Langella
Director:  Denys Arcand
Screenplay: Denys Arcand, Jacob Potashnik

Review published August 23, 2003

At its heart, Stardom is a mild satire on fame and the media, and that we prefer our superstar models seen and not heard. Written and directed by acclaimed auteur, Denys Arcand (Jesus of Montreal, Decline of the American Empire), it's a flawed endeavor most of the way, it's also not without merit.  Satire is a tricky form of comedy, as it necessitates intimate knowledge from the audience as well as acuteness in delivery such that it appears a serious endeavor yet we know it's not underneath.  Stardom doesn't really have that necessary sharp bite, and while it is certainly entertaining in parts, it is very difficult to discern its overall target, purpose or meaning.  It's mostly a fluffy piece, with vignettes and montages that ironically exploit its star actress almost as much as the main targets of the movie.

The main story revolves around Tina Menzhal (Pare, Wicker Park), a typical teenage girl who soon becomes the hottest face around, sought after by photographers who want a picture of the new "It" girl.  Seizing an opportunity to get out of her hometown, she consents to photo shoot after photo shoot, and soon is makes waves in New York and Paris.  She's manipulated by men, the media, and various handlers, none of whom see Tina as more than a pretty face, never stopping to hear what she has to say.  Lately, she's being followed around by a famous documentary filmmaker, who captures some of Tina's most intimate moments, as well as those who are pulling the strings. 

Stardom has a ceaseless energy that makes it entertaining overall, and the sweet charm of Pare ultimately makes us care about her, even though she is only shown to be a fairly shallow vessel most of the time.  Because we only view her through a camera lens, we rarely get a feel for what it is that Tina wants or desires, even when having an emotional confrontation with her deadbeat father.  The story moves around like a stylus on a warped record, never staying in a good groove for very long, and then it finally ends after a decent length, unceremoniously without much punctuation to the two hours of film you witnessed. 

While Arcand is certainly a skilled auteur, and the supporting cast chips in admirably, in the end Stardom suffers from being just a superficial satire on the rise and fall of a marketed superstar.  If you like this sort of comedy, it's probably better to watch Tim Robbins' scathing Bob Roberts, which is a very similar presentation with much more success in the delivery.  Contempt is always best, and the lesson learned in Stardom is that Arcand loves his target too much to show disdain for very long.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo