Saturday, February 11, 2023

Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection (2023) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023

Decades have passed since the death of Karen Carpenter from anorexia. Books have been written, films have been made. While many have been critical of the Carpenter family, anyone wanting to use the actual Carpenter recordings has had to not say anything bad about the family and Richard in particular.  The result has been projects that have been categorized as being too negative or too family friendly to believe. Now after all this time Karen's story is told in a version that tries to stake out the middle ground with mixed results.

I am not sure what I think of this film. 

Telling the story of Karen and the Carpenters, the film looks at how Karen went from a healthy young woman to a shadow of herself due to anorexia. The film interviews friends and family who were there as well as some big name fans who were influenced by her. The film looks to the demons that haunted her and eventually killed her. I'm just not sure the film really tells us what happened, even if we do hear audio recordings of Karen talking about some of it.

My problem is that even with the look into the darkness I don't think the film does enough to remove the decades of bad stories that have been told about life in the Carpenter family. Many accounts say that her parents were controlling and that Richard was a selfish monster. I have no idea how much of those stories are  true but I have read about them for years and they have colored how I feel about things. 

While it makes clear that  Karen's parents held out Richard to be the talented one, and to some degree are responsible for how Karen felt about herself, thanks to their mother being weirdly attached to him, it still doesn't seem to have any real conclusions. We are repeatedly told that Karen had her demons, but it's never fully clear what they are or where they came from.

As good as the film is at times, it frequently looks like it's an attempt at whitewashing what happened in an effort to get word out about anorexia.  Yes all this and a PSA about anorexia.

My apologies to the filmmakers for the snarky comments but this film didn't really work for me and I walked out of the film feeling bothered, not because of the subject but because the film didn't have me thinking about anorexia but how it probably isn't doing it's subject justice.

Beyond that I have no idea.

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