Bob Fosse takes another look at the underside of the success trip in Star 80, an engrossing, unsentimental and unavoidably depressing account of the short life and ghastly death of Playmate-actress Dorothy Stratten.
Stratten was a sweet, voluptuous blonde who became a popular Playmate of the Year in Playboy, appeared in a few films, all of which are forgettable except for Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed (1981), and was brutally killed by her estranged husband in a murder-suicide in 1980.
As played here by Mariel Hemingway, Stratten is a virginal, extremely insecure teenager – almost a baby, really – in Vancouver who is swooped down upon by smalltime hustler Paul Snider. Although doubtlessly in love with his discovery, Snider uses Stratten as his ticket to the big time in LA.
Give Stratten’s passivity and pliability, histrionics fall to the Snider character, and Eric Roberts gives a startlingly fine performance as this pathetic loser.