“Karen Carpenter: Starving For Perfection” a new documentary on the distaff half of the popular 1970s pop duo The Carpenters seems very aware of the irony of the title.
Having a world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this weekend the doc provides a detailed view of the career of Karen Carpenter and her working relation with the brains of the group, her brother Richard.
“Karen Carpenter: Starving For Perfection” follows the rise and fall of the group using their most popular songs as a timeline.
Along the way are some audio interviews with Karen that have never been heard on film before.
While the film compliments Karen’s amazing career the filmmakers don’t shy away from her eating, or rather lack of eating, compulsion that damaged her body beyond belief leading to her death in her early ’30s. Other performers of Karen’s generation suffered from anorexia nervosa too, and we have eye witness accounts from them as well as her friends in the industry like Olivia Newton John.
Some of the medications Carpenter used included ipecac syrup (to induce vomiting) that resulted in even more damage to her internal organs. On one English talk show Karen’s being barraged with questions about her weight. The moderator asks her if she weighs ‘six stones.’ Carpenter easily avoids that question by not even knowing how much a stone equals as a unit of weight.
Carpenter had the voice of an angel and could play any drum style required to make the songs The Carpenter’s perform work.
She was truly a ‘superstar’ performer, also the name of a Leon Russell penned song that was a minor hit for the brother sister duo.
“Starving For Perfection” covers the hits but doesn’t ignore lesser known gems on their various LPs like the decidedly experimental “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,” or The Carpenter’s first Christmas album that spawned the only modern Christmas classic “Merry Christmas, Darling.” Watching Karen’s progression over the 1970s offers bittersweet reflection as you melt from her warbling while at the same time being affected by her obvious wasting away.

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