This week we're celebrating Valentine's Day with some uncommon love stories, and there's little less common than the story of a woman falling in love with the alien clone of her dead husband. Starman is what happens when Carpenter does Spielberg, but it's so much more successful than that sounds. As a sci-fi film, Starman is a little silly, but as a love story, it's beautiful. And as a sci-fi love story, it's something of an original.
On paper, Starman might not read as terribly effective, but it's thanks to two impossibly sympathetic portrayals from Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen that it sticks. And it really sticks - this is a wholly charming movie, made more engaging by its strangeness. Jenny Hayden must contend with the fact that an extraterrestrial is driving around the cloned body of her late husband - and he's holding her hostage with it, albeit cheerfully. But once she gets to know Starman, and sees the miraculous things he can do, she begins to fall in love with the soul behind that familiar face. Allen, always a winning presence onscreen, sells this weird journey with utter conviction, and Bridges is as likable as he's ever been as the lost alien determined to do the right thing by his people and by the woman who is helping him make his way home.
This trailer focuses more on the sci-fi angle of Starman, but in the film, all of the space stuff is just a singular detail augmenting a story of love and loss, and of defining your family by your own measures instead of by convention. It's a surprisingly sweet, optimistic take from the man who brought us Michael Myers and Snake Plissken, but it's just badass enough to feel like a Carpenter joint nonetheless.
Two years after its release, Starman spun off a one-season television series with Robert Hays in the Bridges role, a show that was somehow not called Stardad: