The Rose (1979) is loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. At twelve I had no idea who Janis Joplin was and although she is a rock legend I have never been a huge fan of her collection. But Bette Midler and her portrayal of Mary Rose Foster, her movie début no less, made me a huge fan of her voice, her sound and The Rose.
There was not much I understood about The Rose when I was twelve but I was mesmerized by her injured soul. I’d never seen a woman in such mental pain. No matter how many people loved her, no matter how many fans adored her, and no matter how much she drank or shot up something deep in her could never be satisfied. Thinking about it many, many years later it probably was one of the most impressionable marks left on my life. Seeing her succumb to her weakness in the end, watching her consume all those drugs, and her last performance on stage where she collapses after singing the most heartfelt song of the movie, I knew it was her end. As much as I wanted someone to rush in and save her I knew she could never be saved by anyone.
The drugs and alcohol abuse definitely scared me. I’m a constant gatekeeper of myself because there have been times when I leaned on the little blue Tylenol PM’s more than I should when sleeping was easier than being awake. However it was her constant aching in the movie for something that petrified me. She had everything I thought yet she didn’t have something as simple as peace and happiness. She sucked all the energy from those around her trying to fill the big black hole that was dug deep into her soul. I was sad watching it then and it still saddens me till this day. Although it remains one of my favorite movies it is still the hardest to watch. Maybe I sensed that vulnerability in myself. The part of me that needed to be loved a certain way, needed to be validated by certain people and how that can induce havoc if dug that hole deeper than it needed to be.
I wish I could have found the actual footage of her singing The Rose from the movie but the beauty and sadness is still in the words of this song no matter where Bette sings it.
…the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.