Stella (1990) Poster


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Criminally Underrated
beyondtheforest18 December 2006
I think it was Ebert who gave Stella four out of four stars but, other than his, I have never read a positive review of this sadly misunderstood drama about class divisions, love, and sacrifice (three themes most great romantic stories or films have in common).

Here the major theme is class division. Stella is a story from depression era America. That said, it was translated to the screen then in such a memorable fashion that this remake (if you ask a Stanwyck fan or two) was not exactly appreciated. Fans of the original never gave it a chance. Furthermore, this version of Stella was made in the 1990s, not exactly a time of great financial trouble in America (as the depression was).

Now is the time to remove the rosy-coloured glasses, in the midst of a new era of recession and poverty in America, and see that this powerful story still rings true, is as timely and relevant as ever, in its updated format.

Yes, class divide is the major theme here. Stella is among the working poor, single, with big dreams but little hope of realizing those dreams. She works in a bar, doesn't have much money, lives in a crummy apartment. You get the drift. In the morning, she doesn't really want to get out of bed. On her wall, pictures of movie stars she idolizes.

A man sees her dance at the bar. He's wealthy, educated, from one of those upper class families that has nothing in common with Stella's. His major concern is what ivy league college to attend, her's is how to pay the rent, how to be 'happy.' They have an affair. They like each other. Stella ends up pregnant. Stella tells the guy the news. His response? "How about an abortion?" She replies, "I just wanted a room full of balloons." He supplies the balloons, and the proposal, but she sees his heart is not in it, and has too much pride to accept. She sends him packing.

Her daughter is eventually torn between the two lifestyles--the love she has for her mom and the advantages and happiness and love held out to her by her wealthy father. Stella, alone and unloved, and not wanting her daughter to become as unhappy as her someday, makes the ultimate sacrifice. She gives up the only love and happiness she has ever known to ensure the happiness of her daughter, and perhaps live vicariously, and with hope, knowing that at least her daughter found something to live for.

Now, for the movie. Everything is right about it. Beautiful score, artful cinematography, great set design (contrast between the two lifestyles; the messy apt. and the decorated mansions), wonderful and heartfelt performances by the whole cast, with Bette Midler, in particular, Oscar-worthy.

This is a film which is much more significant and well-made than you've been led to believe.
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The Divine Miss M's Talent Shows in "Stella"
Brandon Hall28 July 2001
First off, I would just like to say what a big fan of Bette Midler's I am. Stella is a very good movie with a wonderful cast (Bette Midler, John Goodman, Trini Alvarado, Stephen Collins, Marsha Mason) This is one of my favorite films of all time. It deals with a mother raising a child on her own, she goes through a lot of things that are out of her way to bring up her daughter Jenny played wonderfully by Trini Alvarado. This movie is very good and I suggest that you pick up a copy to watch it. Roger Ebert gave is 3 1/2 stars! And it deserved 4! WONDERFUL! I give it 4 out of 4!
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kkdi115 December 2002
I think this movie is wonderful. Bette Midler truly makes you feel the pain you may go through when making the right choices for your children. This is one of my favorite tear jerker movies. My mother and I always watch it together at least once a year!
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This is the weepy that Beaches never was
eddax26 November 2003
This is the weepy that Beaches never was. As much as I wanted to love Beaches, it always seemed too hurried for me to "feel" for it (its soundtrack is one of my favorite albums though). Stella, on the other hand, moves at a slower (and occasionally too slow) pace and though it's somewhat manipulative in its tears-inducing tale about a self-sacrificial mother, it works because Bette and the rest of the cast turn in great performances. 10/10
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the best drama that I have ever seen - Spoilers
nana18_318 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie always makes me cry in the end when Bette Middler sees her daughter`s wedding from the distance because the only thing she wants is to see the face of her little girl to know if she`s happy...God, I think I`m gonna cry again ! The best part of the movie obviously is when Stella( againts her will and with a broken heart ) dissapoints Jenny( Trini Alvarado - EXCELLENT !!!) with a terrible fight(broken glasses included) with the only intention that her daughter comes back to New York with his father who could give her a better life.
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The Unconditional Love of A Mom...
Blooeyz200110 November 2002
After the success of "Beaches", Bette Midler once again wanted to rejuvenate the "woman's picture" genre (some Susan Hayward, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, & Barbara Stanwyck films come to mind) with a remake of the Stanwyck film "Stella Dallas". I love this movie, but it does have some flaws, including a TV movie feel. The movie starts off in 1969, & ends in the present, which was 1990. What made sense in the 1937 Stanwyck film doesn't hold up at all in 1990. There is no need for a low-income, single mom to give up her daughter for a "better life" with her affluent doctor father in 1990. Add to that the daughter is almost college age! An unlikable/senseless aspect of Midler's Stella is her stubbornness to not accept financial assistance from her daughter's father. This decision is just plain stupid. He wasn't a jerk, he actually wanted to help her & accept his responsibilities. Even marry her, although all they ever had in common, from the get-go, was sex. How many woman in this situation find themselves with a man this willing to help out??? Midler also adopted an unusual accent for this role which comes & goes. It can be annoying at times. John Goodman has a supporting role that makes me cringe every time he's on screen. All this aside, the birthday party scene & the ending is so heart wrenching, it tears you up. Watch this drama, it's enjoyable despite some imperfections.
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Pointless remake of "Stella Dallas"
preppy-31 February 2010
An unmarried woman named Stella (Bette Midler) gets pregnant by a wealthy man (Stephen Collins). He offers to marry her out of a sense of obligation but she turns him down flat and decides to raise the kid on her own. Things go OK until the child named Jenny (Trini Alvarado) becomes a teenager and things gradually (and predictably) become worse.

I've seen both the silent version and sound version of "Stella Dallas". Neither one affected me much (and I cry easily) but they were well-made if dated. Trying to remake this in 1990 was just a stupid idea. I guess Midler had enough power after the incomprehensible success of "Beaches" to get this made. This (predictably) bombed. The story is laughable and dated by today's standards. Even though Midler and Alvarado give good performances this film really drags and I was bored silly by the end. Stephen Collins and Marsha Mason (both good actors) don't help in supporting roles. Flimsy and dull. Really--who thought this would work? See the 1937 Stanwyck version instead. I give this a 1.
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Unusually better than the original
gerry-russell-1397 February 2002
The original with Barbara Stanwyk is saved only by Stanwyk's performance. The story and the other performances are too sickeningly sweet and the film itself is too dated to be really enjoyed today. Bette Midler's version is much more interesting. She is Stella Claire, an independent, free-spirited single woman who gets pregnant and refuses help from her boyfriend (Stephen Collins) or her friend (John Goodman in an underrated performance). She raises her daughter Jenny played so sweetly by Trini Alvarado and then comes to the conclusion that Jenny's father can do better for her and ultimately makes a life-altering decision. Through out the film, there are plenty of laughs, tears and memorable moments mostly between Midler and Alvarado. Marsha Mason co-stars as Jenny's would-be stepmother, who though wealthy turns out to be a very good influence on her. If you like Midler, Goodman or just good films with plenty of emotion you'll enjoy Bette Midler's version of STELLA.
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Remake of "Stella Dallas" it came to made in 1990 is anybody's guess
moonspinner557 May 2006
1937's "Stella Dallas" with Barbara Stanwyck hasn't exactly aged well--how anyone thought a semi-updated version of the story would work now is a real puzzler. Perhaps they thought jaunty, cheerfully brash Bette Midler could make something out of it, but this hoary script defeats her. Plot about a female bartender having a baby out of wedlock, and years later giving the young girl over to the child's wealthy father so she'll have a shot at a better life, can't escape tatty, old-fashioned trappings and sentiment. Midler works best with a movie director who can control her excesses, but that fails to happen here with John Erman, who's too lax. Stephen Collins is stolid as the man who changes Stella's life, but Trini Alvarado is well-cast as the daughter. This is what used to be referred to as a "woman's picture", a wallow, but it doesn't pass muster today while remaining too faithful to its 1930s origins. *1/2 from ****
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The Divine Miss M bites the dust.
Jamie-585 August 1999
I can sympathise with Bette Midler's desire to extend her range, especially following her personal triumph in "Beaches". Throughout "Stella" she bears evidence of a thinking, intelligent actress, and she has my profound admiration for that. But good intentions do not make for a good movie, nor indeed for a good performance. As the redoubtable Stella Dallas - so memorably played by Barbara Stanwyck in 1937 - Midler gives an hysterically over detailed performance. Straining pathetically for heart throbs, she makes herself look more than a little ridiculous - and for a woman who started her career singing in a gay bath house, that's saying something.

But whilst I can't see the film as more than the standard mother-love soap opera, its good to see an actress daring to hang herself in public. Her performance doesn't really work, but the effort in itself is fascinating, and at times she comes so close to making us believe in the film.

With a stronger director and a better script this might have been something special. But Midler has had to carry it alone, and that's simply no way to treat the Divine one.
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Over the Top, Bette
gbheron8 December 2000
"Stella", starring Bette Midler in the title role, is an unabashed tearjerker. Set in upstate New York, Stella Claire works nights as a bar maid, pouring and dancing in a workingman's saloon. One night, in comes a slumming medical intern, Stephen Dallas, who woos Stella, and in the course of their affair impregnates her. She spurns both his offers of marriage and abortion, sends him packing to a lucrative medical career, and raises her daughter herself in near-poverty. Flash-forward 16 years and the daughter has grown into a gorgeous, loving, young lady. Dr. Dallas is not out of the picture, still maintaining a tenuous, but caring relationship with his daughter and…..I'm rambling, and worse yet, making the movie sound somewhat interesting. The acting and screenwriting are so over-the-top you'll let out a groan in almost every scene. The chief offender is Bette Midler, but close behind is John Goodman as her alcoholic buddy. Each scene seems more contrived than the preceding right up to the finale, which is truly a hoot. Taken as a dramatic piece, this film rates no more than grade D, but as camp, it scores an unintended B+.
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Bette Midler Shines
drednm14 April 2019
This is one where some terrific performances are trapped in a movie that, as a whole, doesn't quite work.

Bette Midler shines as Stella, a working-class high school dropout who slings drinks in an Upstate New York bar. She meets a rich college boy (Stephen Collins) who's taken with her quirky zest for life and they have a kid. But marriage is out of the question. Stella knows in her heart she'd never fit into his world. As the kid grows up, Stella wrestles with what's best for the kid versus what she wants for herself. This quandary eventually leads to a mother's sacrifice.

Based on the 1923 novel STELLA DALLAS by Olive Higgins Prouty, this story was first filmed in 1925 with Belle Bennett and again in 1937 with Barbara Stanwyck as the star. By 1990 the story just seemed far-fetched and very old-fashioned and Midler's follow-up to the smash hit BEACHES was a box-office disappointment.

It's a shame because Midler gives a terrific performance. Her Stella is full of love and self-doubt as she rides the highs and lows of her threadbare life. She eventually ends up selling cosmetics door to door to pay for things for her daughter (Trini Alvarado). Stella puts her life on hold to give her daughter what she thinks the daughter wants. Only problem is the daughter wants something else.

Also very good in this film are John Goodman as Ed, Stella's longtime friend who's on a downward spiral, and Marsha Mason as the warm and understanding Janice, the woman who will become the daughter's step-mother.

Others in the cast include Ben Stiller, Linda Hart, Eileen Brennan, and William McNamara ... but watch this one for a great performance by Bette Midler.
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Ill-conceived remake
Wizard-825 December 2015
I have to confess that I have never seen the 1937 movie "Stella Dallas", which this movie is a remake of. However, after seeing this remake, I'm willing to accept the reports that the original movie is a lot better than this remake. There are a lot of things in this remake that while I can believe would work in a 1937 environment, seem very outdated seen today, or even back in 1990 when the movie was first released, such as the no longer shocking subject of single motherhood. But the dated story elements are just one problem with this movie. Though the movie runs 109 minutes, there are big sections of the movie where things seem very rushed and incomplete; I could not get a real feeling of the bond between mother and daughter, mother and her best male friend (played by John Goodman), or any other relationship. The movie feels like a cinematic Cliff's Note telling of what might have worked in a miniseries. The movie is well acted, I guess, but great performances never manage to hide story and character flaws in a screenplay.
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Heartbreaking drama!!!
vintkd24 June 2012
Very touching and heartbreaking drama about relationships of mother and daughter and if you are parent you will know what I mean after watching. One of my favorite actress Bette Midler is really diverse actress. She is very brilliantly in a comedy and terrific in a drama. I saw all her films and "Stella" I like most. It's very vital story about us and our relation to our parents. This film make you wonder about this. I was in tears after watching "Stella". It's true. That's very emotional and prettily film with the right thoughts that very important to us all today. People are need of such movies and I sad what in theaters you can't to see similar stories now, because in the majority, the modern films are very lifeless and unfeeling, in my opinion. It's regrettable.
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I like it
PhoebeliciousBaby15 April 2019
I have never seen the original but this one was really good. I use to watch this because Bette Midler was the only reason, I was a big fan of hers and still a fan but as I got older my perspective of the movie is different. Still think it's a good movie.
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A word for the genuine original
kekseksa18 October 2012
The "Stanwyck version" is not, as other reviewers seems to believe, the "orginal" and to my mind the performance in the genuinely original (1925) version by Belle Bennett is quite the best. The problems with Midler's performance have been well rehearsed but there are serious problems too with Stanwyck's performance. The 1937 version tracks the original almost exactly (the only real difference obviously being sound)losing some significant detail but without really improving it in any way. Stanwyck is miscast. Her "vulgarity" comes and goes in a totally illogical manner and when she suddenly converts herself for no obvious reason into some sort of clown towards the end of the film, it doesn't really make any sense. Bennett's performance builds the character much more consistently and convincingly. The daughter too is far less saccharine and far more believable than in the 1937 version. The original is also far more frank in confronting the class issue which is somewhat air-brushed in the 1937 version. Arguably Midler returns to something closer to the original but I do not think her performance as good as Bennett's.
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