By Cherish Clinton and Lisa Ward
“Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection” is an in-depth documentary taking a deeper look at beloved performer Karen Carpenter who was gone too soon.
As the #1 American musical act of the 1970s, the Carpenters were on “Top of the World,” producing a string of pop masterpieces, including “Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.” But behind closed doors, Karen’s quest for perfection resulted in low self-esteem, a disheartening love life, and a public battle with anorexia nervosa, which resulted in her untimely death at the age of only 32. She was the first celebrity who brought awareness around the disease and how pervasive it was, and is, in our culture.
Through never-before-released recordings we hear Karen Carpenter’s personal struggle in her own voice, and through those who worked with her, knew her personally, and were inspired by her.
The film includes interviews with Carol Burnett, Belinda Carlisle, Kristin Chenoweth, Olivia Newton-John, Cynthia Gibb, Suzanne Somers, and Carnie Wilson (also the executive producer on the film).
This was a heartbreaking film and very different than the 2016 documentary “Karen Carpenter – Goodbye to Love,” created by her brother Richard Carpenter, which was more of a glowing tribute to their bond and musical talents.
“Starving for Perfection” shows a different side of the Carpenters and how Karen was thrust into the limelight. There are hints and overt statements on the Carpenter’s toxic family dynamics, especially the harshness and control she experienced from her mother and brother.
A writer that was interviewed for the documentary told a story about him visiting Karen’s mother shortly after she died and the first thing the mother said was, “I just want you to know I didn’t kill my daughter.” Gripping.
This was a captivating and revealing documentary showing a new perspective of Karen’s musical gifts, personal suffering, and seemingly abusive family.
The 38th Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs through February 18. Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout the city, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. Passes and tickets are on sale now at.