Picks and Pans Review: Divine Madness
Bette Midler is a natural high, but this filmed concert, taped last February in three days at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, is really no more than a big-screen TV special without the bleeps. (Miss M's vulgarity, abetted by her trashy trio, the Harlettes, comes through unsanitized.) Like Gilda Live, this is less a movie than a chance to cash in on a tour without the extra effort that distinguished the Dylan-Baez documentary Don't Look Back and the Band's The Last Waltz. Except for an opening gambit in which harried head usher Irving Sudrow prepares his charges to cope with Bette aficionados, director Michael (The Candidate) Ritchie's noted light touch is rarely perceptible. This is all Midler—19 songs—and she's not always at peak form. Two numbers, Paradise and Street Shuffle, are inexcusably ragged, and her comedy set pieces (lounge singer and bag lady) are, to be generous, overlong. She delivers a medley from her debut film, The Rose, a stirring version of Dylan's I Shall Be Released and a mesmerizing Tom Waits chant, Shiver Me Timbers. Surprisingly, however, her quietly definitive interpretation of James Taylor's Millworker. which she did on tour, is missing; somewhere between stage and screen, ballad gave way to belt. It's a shame. As she proved with her bravura performance in The Rose, there is more to Bette than just her upper registers. (R)
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