Madame Rose (Bette Midler) is the stage mother from hell. She pushes her two daughters June (Jennifer Rae Beck) and Louise (Cynthia Gibb) into showbiz, but concentrates her ambitions on June. When Rose meets Herbie Sommers (Peter Riegert), he becomes their agent and the act is successful. But when June leaves, Rose turns her ambitions to Louise, who morphs into the renowned stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Success for her daughter, however, is not enough for Rose, who really wants to limelight herself.
Review by Louise Keller:
Bette Midler's illuminated name appears above and even larger than the title Gypsy, as if to highlight the fact that the talented star is every bit as large as the larger-than-life stage mother. Hers is a tour de force performance and Midler walks off with the film in her pocket. She is in great voice and the songs will stay in your head long after the film is over. Songs like Everything's Coming Up Roses, If Mama were only Married, Have an Eggroll Mr Goldstone, You Gotta Get a Gimmick.... There has never been another stage mother like Rose, who blatantly uses everybody to satisfy her own ambitions. 'God helps him who helps himself,' she says, and makes sure no opportunity is left to chance, as she manipulates, pushes, yells and screams until she gets her way.
'You look like a pioneer woman without a frontier,' Peter Riegert's soft-hearted agent Herbie tells Rose, and promptly leaves his confectionary business in order to look after the act. Rose has her ambitious eyes locked on June, her pretty extraverted daughter with the blonde curls and toothpaste smile, and ignores the quiet, shy Louise, who spends her whole life looking for her mother's approval. When June leaves the act and Louise steps in, her transformation into the queen of the striptease, Gypsy Rose Lee is a surprise to everyone, especially her mother. As Louise's confidence grows, she learns how to tease and milk the audience, begging them for more. Cynthia Gibb as the adult Louise is appealing, but it's a big task to fill the elegant shoes of the lovely Natalie Wood, who made the role her own in the 1962 film version. Watch out for Gypsy's entrance in the Garden of Eden show sequence as she emerges from an oversize apple, wearing a red feather boa and red sequined gown slit to the thigh. She peels off her straps seductively, before discarding the whole dress, and looks as though she is loving every minute.
The film is bright, full of life with plenty of one-liners and an energy that only Midler can bring to a project. While her Rose is a tragic figure ('I was born too soon and started too late'), she is also endearing, and Midler allows us to understand her - her weaknesses, her insufferable ambition to achieve her life-long dream.
Published September 6, 2007
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GYPSY: DVD (M)
CAST: Bette Midler, Peter Riegert, Cynthia Gibb, Edward Asner, Tony Shalhoub
PRODUCER: Emile Ardolino, Cindy Gilmore
DIRECTOR: Emile Ardolino
SCRIPT: Arthur Laurents (book by Gypsy Rose Lee)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ralf D. Bode
EDITOR: L. James Langlois, William Reynolds
MUSIC: Jule Styne; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jackson De Govia
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: September 5, 2007