Title – Starman (1984)
Director – John Carpenter (The Thing)
Cast – Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel
Plot – A visiting alien (Bridges) takes the form of a deceased man whose widow Jenny (Allen) ends up accompanying him on a cross country road trip to get him back to his home planet safely, all the while the American government looks to stop his departure.
“You are at your very best when things are worst”
Review by Eddie on 16/04/2020
The only film in his glorious career to be nominated for any form of Academy Award (a nomination for its lead actor Jeff Bridges), Starman is not the film that is often talked about when we discuss the career of John Carpenter but his heartfelt and emotional sci-fi is arguably his most accessible and optimistic in a filmography filled with far more bleak and oppressive offerings.
Bought to life by Carpenter in the wake of The Thing’s box office failings in an attempt to showcase to Hollywood bigwigs that he was indeed capable of making mass-marketable features, Starman never set the world on fire upon release but over 30 years on from release the film remains eminently watchable and enjoyable as we witness Jeff Bridges visiting alien go on a picturesque road trip of the USA with Karen Allen’s grieving widow Jenny.
One of the only films in Carpenter’s catalogue that doesn’t see him provide score work (here overseen by a Jack Nitzsche accompaniment), Starman sees Carpenter restrain his usual tendencies for over the top violence and horror elements to dial things right back to the simplistically humane and heart-warming as Bridge’s visitor learns the ways of human beings whilst slowly but surely falling for Jenny, who displays to him the empathy and kindness that shows the best of what humanity has to offer.
There’s nothing ground-breaking about the story as such but Carpenter manages to steer clear of the overly melodramatic or manipulative as he instead gets his audience to consider the finer things in life, whilst also showcasing his beloved America to the world, done so by some great on-site location work in some of the country’s most beautiful and unique surrounds, a highlight of which includes a helicopter heavy finale in the barren lands of Arizona.
Front and centre throughout all of these happenings is Bridges and Allen who manage to create some great chemistry together, a chemistry that grows throughout the film from some slightly awkward moments early on into an extremely likeable friendship/romance in the latter stages, one that builds to a strong crescendo in the final moments, leaving Starman in a great place come the rolling of the final credits.
Watching Starman in today’s climate means there are elements of the film that leave much to be desired, generic government goons and questionable plot developments key players in this area but with its heart in the right place and with its unique approach to a well-worn Hollywood formula, Starman is the John Carpenter film you never knew you needed.
Final Say –
One of John Carpenters most surprising and affectionate films, Starman may not be the famed director’s best work but it’s well worth tracking down for a first time viewing or a long overdue re-watch.
3 ½ pieces of cobbler out of 5