WHY?

When Karen Carpenter died on February 4, 1983 at the age of 32, more than one generation mourned. Karen and her brother, Richard, had achieved monumental success as purveyors of soft-rock soulfulness, aided by their wholesome, wistful looks. After all, these were the hard-rocking, disco-throbbing '70s, yet with classics like "Close to You," "Rainy Days and Mondays," and "We've Only Just Begun," the pair blurred the lines of musical class. But no one knew--or at least talked about--Karen's debilitating bouts of bulimia and ongoing battle against the ravaging effects of anorexia. Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters is more a gracious memento than a documentary and presents a rather biased view, heavily influenced by Richard's opinion and commentary. Beginning with the duo's early major success, winning a Battle of the Bands at the Hollywood Bowl, it's a quick trip through the salad years including the first record deal with Herb Alpert's A&M Records. Alpert calls his initial listen to the Carpenters' demo tape "love at first hear." That appears to be true for everyone who came into contact with them, as band members, songwriters Burt Bacharach and Paul Williams, and singer Petula Clark readily testify. The hits and the TV specials are reviewed, too, but something feels missing from this glimpse, which barely scratches the surface. It's obvious to anyone watching the film that Karen, who really wanted to be known as a drummer who sang, not the other way around, was in immense pain and terribly conflicted. Yet by the final credits, we know little more about her than we did before. She remains an enigma and this peek at her life--and Richard's--feels too protective of her memory to tell the whole truth. --Paula Nechak

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