An alien lands in Wisconsin, arriving at the cabin of Jenny Hayden, a young widow. The alien, Starman, convinces her to drive him to Arizona, explaining that if he is not picked up by his mothership he will die. En route, Starman finds universal love, while Jenny rediscovers her human passion.
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There is no alien, only humanity reflected back onto a young widow still in mourning, a humanity she must explain, first to herself then to the cipher that is her charge. Carpenter shoulders the collective weight of extraterrestrial convention and exposes it for what it is: a story about learning to see ourselves as part of the universe, learning a dignity that can reply to the void of mystery, to the cosmos itself.
Carpenter's outlier, warm and cuddly with no pure evil in sight. What makes it his is its fondness for the American working class, otherwise used as political subtext for action/horror but here a vision of wall-to-wall warmth, where his comic book fantasies of post-Nixon America yield not a nightmare, but the pleasantest daydream. A film that sincerely, fervently believes in people. Nice use of the Everly Brothers.
"Desire" list: I like Karen Allen so much, but I come here because of Jeff Bridges, for the third time. The most beautiful of human-alien who ever visited us, to find love and its burdens and get on the run as Nicholas Ray's lyrical heroes. One of the most iconic and exemplary actors of the 70s, was also one of the finest heirs of the classic male beauty, secure in his availability, available in his sincerity.
Beautiful to look at. There's also an interesting parallel between the landing of the pilgrims, as Native American culture is subtly referenced throughout, drawing on questions about the invaded and the invaders. The performances are fantastic, and the sly hint at baby ET being the Messiah just gives this movie some longetivity. Watch. Also, I'll never forget KA's face in the last shot.