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Stardom (June 10/01)

Stardom, the new film by acclaimed Canadian director Denys Arcand, wants to be so much more than it actually is. It so blatantly wants to be a satire of how the media turns non-celebrities into celebrities, that it eventually winds up beating you over the head with it's message. Good satires are subtle; they exploit their subject without being too obvious. This is not a good satire.

Jessica Pare stars as Tina, a young girl from Cornwall who is discovered at hockey practice and is soon working as a bona fide supermodel. The film then follows her various encounters with sycophants, reporters and lovers (and wannabe lovers).

Stardom has been put together in such a way that it always appears as though we are watching a different feed from the media. Mostly, though, it's through the eyes of a documentarian that we see from the very beginning of the movie. And while I don't object to this style in principle, it's the execution that bothers me. Every single media personality in Stardom - from news anchors to the Muchmusic-esque VJ's - are shown to be complete idiots. Imagine someone like Bob Goen (that complete suck-up from Entertainment Tonight) and multiply the ass-kissing by about 100, and you have the portrayal of each of the various media figures. The type of people that host shows like Access Hollywood and Extra are so over-the-top fake already, to make them even more fake is just stupid and obvious.

But the performances are good - particularly newcomer Pare in the lead role. This is a part that easily determines the course of the entire movie, and she's up for it. And supporting turns from people like Dan Aykroyd and Thomas Gibson are well placed as well. But the disjointed style of the narrative makes it really difficult to care about anyone (since nothing is really played straight), which leaves the viewer completely ambivalent. Are we supposed to care about Pare?

But it's entertaining enough, if only because of it's MTV-style attention span, quickly switching from one format to another. But really, isn't substance over style what the movie is demanding we take back from popular entertainment?

Stardom is an ineffective look at contemporary society's obsession with creating celebrities (Monica Lewinsky, anyone?) But the ham-fisted approach to the subject renders it's supposedly "harsh" look at the media limp. A single episode of Law and Order would have done a better job at skewering the media than this 105-minute heavy-handed satire.

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