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2011/11/27

Starman

by Tony Ramos

Even though it takes place in a science fiction universe, if you're looking for a great romance story mixed in with a little adventure, humor, and drama, I suggest the film Starman. Starman, I feel, is one of the best love stories ever put on film. However, because it does take place in a science fiction world, perhaps many "romance" film lovers may have missed it. It's directed by John Carpenter, a director best known for Halloween and other chiller/thriller types of films. Trust me, however; Carpenter makes Starman work as a romantic movie.



Apart from having a very capable director, this film also has other positive factors working for it. First of all, the script is well developed and will have you laughing, tearing up, and sometimes cheering throughout. Starman also has a soundtrack that is well paced and jumps in and out at the most perfect moments. The soundtrack is never overbearing nor distracting. Instead, it only helps a moment in the movie or a conversation be more touching or tender. Its soundtrack will stay with you even after the film is over. Of course the most important and positive factor working for this film, apart from its director, is its actors. Its two main leads, Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, have to carry the film, and they are both outstanding.

Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) and Starman (Jeff Bridges)
The film begins with an off screen announcement of the launch of the space probe Voyager 2. We follow the probe into space, which carries a golden record (phonographic disk) containing music, images, and natural sounds of the planet Earth. This record also contains spoken greetings in fifty-five languages and is intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or future humans, to discover some day. In the film, the probe is intercepted by aliens who then send out a spaceship to Earth to investigate. Upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, the spaceship is quickly shot down by U.S. armed forces and crash lands in Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin, near a grieving widow, Jenny Hayden's (Karen Allen) home. The crashed alien makes his way, or you could say, floats, his way to Jenny's home. While she sleeps, he clones himself into a version of Jenny's recently deceased husband from a strand of his hair she keeps in a photo album.

Jenny is awakened and manages to see Starman's (Jeff Bridges) transformation into an exact replica of her late husband. After her initial shock, Starman is able to communicate to her that he needs to get to Arizona within three days to rendezvous with a rescue ship or he will die. Mostly out of fear, Jenny is at first reluctant to help Starman and tries to escape from him several times. As their journey continues and they are pursued by the U.S. Military, she finally realizes he means her no harm and simply needs her help to return home.

Jenny (Allen) and Starman (Bridges)
What I loved most about this film, and what makes it funny and touching, is the dynamic teacher/student relationship the two main characters have. Even though Starman comes from an alien race that is much farther advanced than humans are, he's essentially a little boy learning and questioning everything. Jenny, of course, becomes Starman's principle teacher but also learns from him. When Starman constantly asks Jenny to "define" certain words or human actions, Jenny must come up with the best way to answer him. In doing this, Starman unknowingly forces Jenny to re-examine herself and what those words or actions really mean. There is a scene, for example, in which Starman is about to eat food for the first time. When he goes to eat his Dutch apple pie dessert first, she tries to correct him telling him that one does not eat that first, but last. When he questions why, she is dumbfounded and doesn't really have an answer. In a more touching moment a little later in the same scene, Starman asks Jenny to "define love". She hesitates for a moment, before giving him her touching definition of love, as she no doubt is remembering her late husband when she speaks. He is a willing student and she a willing teacher, thus creating a relationship that can only grow in love and admiration.

Jenny (Allen) and Starman (Bridges)
Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Starman, and it was well deserved. He plays the character like a curious, innocent child, eyes always wandering about, his walk like a newly born horse or deer getting around on shaky legs in its first few days of life. Starman's attempts to mimic facial expressions and later hand gestures will give the audience some funny moments. Yet despite Starman being a fish out of water character, he is very intelligent, and when he focuses on Jenny to make a point, you can see this intelligence because of Bridges' incredible acting.

Meanwhile, Karen Allen also shows extraordinary range and acting ability. Jenny Hayden is a character that has essentially lost everything to live for after her husband passed. She is a sad, lonely woman who, by meeting and interacting with Starman, learns how to let go of her husband, accepting that he will never come back. Since this is a very heavy character with a deep hurt, the actress playing Jenny Hayden needed to portray a character with a lot of pain while not becoming a character that an audience might come to see as tiring, thus losing all sympathy for her. Allen does her job well, and anyone who has seen her as the spunky, full of energy Marion Ravenwood in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, will be able to see the great range she possesses when comparing both of these roles. She also should have been nominated for an Oscar, I feel, for her portrayal of Jenny Hayden.

George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) and Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith)
The cast also showcases actors Richard Jaeckel and Charles Martin Smith. Jaeckel plays George Fox, an NSA chief who leads the military forces looking for Starman and sees the visiting alien as a threat. Smith portrays Mark Shermin, a more understanding scientist who works for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and does not wish Starman, whom he views as an invited guest, any harm.


As I stated above, this film is a romantic story. It is a story that demonstrates how teaching and learning, giving and receiving, no matter where you come from or you are, could eventually lead to love. The character Jenny Hayden learns how to cope with her depression and loneliness, while Starman gets to better examine, up close and personal, what makes human beings special despite their weaknesses. More importantly, the character Jenny Hayden learns to love again, while Starman discovers how it feels to be human and how humans love.

For more information visit there IMBD page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088172/


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