Netflix review: A STAR IS BORN (1976)

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In commemoration of the upcoming remake, A STAR IS BORN (2018), I’m setting the time machine back some decades and I’m going to watch all of the movies that came before. And yes, I do mean all of the movies. Believe it or not, there’s a grand total of four A Star Is Born films, making the 2018 release the fifth remake. The first was actually a movie called WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? which was made back in 1932. It’s basically the same story as the others that would follow, but titled differently. But even that film wasn’t quite an original story. It was an adaptation of a short story that was based on a real actress, Colleen Moore and her marriage to drunken producer John McCormack. The first officially-titled “A Star is Born” film came out in 1937. The next one came out in 1954, and finally this one in 1976. We’d only have to wait forty-six years for another one, I guess. I never want to hear another person complain about how superheroes are constantly rebooted anymore.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Barbara Streisand (THE GUILT TRIP [2012] and MEET THE FOCKERS [2004]), Kris Kristofferson (THE STAR [2017]), and Gary Busey (SHARKNADO 4: THE 4TH AWAKENS [2016], PREDATOR 2 [1990], and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS [2018]).

Now for the crew that I likely know nothing about. Directing and co-writing, we have the late Frank Pierson (stuff I’ve never heard of or seen). Co-writing the screenplay alongside Pierson, making for a red flag total three writers, we have duo Joan Didion and the late John Gregory Dunne, both known for stuff I’ve never heard of or seen. Composing the score is Roger Kellaway, known for stuff I’ve never heard of or seen. The cinematographer is Robert Surtees, known for THE GRADUATE (1967). Finally, the editor is Peter Zinner, known for THE DEER HUNTER (1978), THE GODFATHER (1972) and THE GODFATHER: PART II (1974).

This is my honest opinion of: A STAR IS BORN

 

(SUMMARY)

John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) is a rock star who thinks he’s on top of the world. However, he’s fallen from grace as of late. He’s constantly drunk and showing up late to his concerts. One night, he goes out and sits down at a a club where the lovely Esther Hoffman (Barbara Streisand) is performing. After he interrupts the performance with a violent outburst, he escorts Esther home and start a romance, acknowledging her talent and giving her increased confidence in making it big. And as her profile, as well as their relationship, grows, John’s self-confidence begins to diminish as Esther takes the spotlight.

(REVIEW)

You know what? I gotta say that I didn’t like this too much. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not as good as I was hoping.

Let’s start with what I liked.

To start, the acting is good, resulting in great chemistry between Kristofferson and Streisand. Streisand is arguably the better actor of the two and really steals the show in every scene that she’s in, making it her career best as far as anything that I’ve seen her in, which isn’t much. She’s fantastic. Also, the music is pretty good too. Again, mostly just Streisand’s scenes. I can barely understand anything that Kristofferson was singing.

But now to the negatives.

For one thing, two and a half hours long?! Seriously?! This isn’t GONE WITH THE WIND!

But the biggest issue that I have is the characters, and later on, the romance. The relationship between John and Esther is completely random and not properly developed from the get-go, which is an extremely weird thing to say considering that I just said that this movie is two and a half hours long. What the hell were they doing with all that time, you may ask? Well, it wasn’t developing the foundation of the relationship, I’ll tell you that. It’s so forced that it basically happens overnight. I don’t even know if that’s a metaphor because on the first night they meet, she’s offering him breakfast. This is just after he forces her into his car, drives her home, walks her to her door, and then offers him breakfast the next day. What the actual fuck, man? First of all, no woman who is uncertain of a man’s intentions, would ever just hop into a strange car, no matter who it is. And there’s no lead-in to that moment either. And because John’s advances are so uncomfortably aggressive, it’s a wonder how he manages to get so far with Esther at all. Does this woman not have an ounce of self-respect?! Maybe if she was a hyper fangirl, this might explain a few things, but she’s no groupie. She’s rather taken with him. And for much of their relationship, there’s nothing to indicate any real progression of romance. Even when John shows up for breakfast, he doesn’t believe that she has anything made, immediately wants alcohol, and falls asleep after she plays him a song that he wanted her to play… which she laughs at like it’s charming.

That’s pretty much this entire movie. That’s the entire formula. John acts borderline creepy, or weird, and Esther finds it charming. Not entirely dissimilar to the Twilight franchise, this movie gives Esther more than a few reasons why she shouldn’t be with John, but she ends up with him anyway, despite never truly showing a redeeming element in his character to warrant such affection. It’s… actually kind of disturbing.

As a result, because I don’t find the foundation of their relationship to be compelling, the rest of the story painfully falters when there’s no music playing. When the singing portions are on, it’s enjoyable. But when the movie cuts to their relationship, I get bored, or even frustrated. He takes her out to an isolated desert where he wants to build a house for the two of them… this is an elongated scene with no build-up. I don’t recall that conversation where he’s like, “There’s this place out in the desert where I want to build a house,” nope, it comes out of nowhere and we get a montage of him and her building the thing.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

 

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Even John cheating on her toward the end felt contrived as fuck. First of all, I barely even caught what the hell this… reporter?… was doing half-naked in his pool to begin with. Hang on, literally going to rewatch these scenes just to get the full understanding.

 

*one viewing later*

 

Quinn. Nope, sorry, Quentin (Marta Helflin – RIP). Starting over. Okay, so she works for the Rolling Stones magazine. “All the pop magazines,” to quote and wants an interview- an “exclusive” interview – with him. Stopping right there, and I stand by my question, what the hell was this bitch doing in his pool half-naked to begin with? Unless the standards of big magazine reporting set a seriously slutty and low bar back in the 70’s (should I be surprised if that was the case?), then this seems rather unprofessional. But fine, I’m sure reporters have fucked their way to exclusive interviews before, so I won’t bash the method. However, for a man who claims to love his wife, this cheat comes out of nowhere. I know he’s in an emotional decline after realizing that Esther is on the rise of her popularity, but this seems pretty out of character. I don’t recall his lack of popularity being made fully realized by this point.

 

But fine. Let’s say, yes, reporters will fuck celebrities for interviews. Let’s say, I missed every damn sign that John was emotionally distraught, and that’s what got him to sleep with Quentin. I challenge you to argue this one fact: there are ZERO repercussions when Esther catches them in bed together. First off, Quentin is acting like married couples catch each other cheating all the time and proceeds to try for an interview with Esther right there and still topless in bed. Stupidity on its highest level already. Second, even when Esther storms out, John chases her, and two minutes and twenty-two seconds later, she forgives him. Mother fucker, no married couple would kiss and make-up that fast!

 

Honestly, I don’t even think that John’s drunk-driving death at the end was really all that necessary and felt like unnecessary drama. I mean, washed up rock stars don’t just commit suicide. They find meaning in other aspects of their lives. Families, charities, second jobs, but they don’t always see themselves into a drunken stupor that kills them. I won’t say that it’s never happened, but it’s not like this happens at John’s lowest point. Maybe that’s what the movie was trying for, but it doesn’t pan out. It would have worked better if the cheating ended his marriage with Esther and it didn’t slow her rise of fame, but he was ridiculed, and then this crash ultimately kills him. I don’t know, there was a better way to go about this, or simply not do it.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I can’t say that I liked this movie. It’s not awful, but I can’t get behind it. Yes, Kristofferson is great. Streisand is phenomenal. The music is good. But… damn, I really hated the relationship between John and Esther, and that’s the heart of the movie. As a recommendation, unless you want to see these music icons and legends act alongside each other, this is a hard pass. If a star was born, then it’s brightness is dim.

My honest rating for A STAR IS BORN: a weak 3/5

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6 Replies to “Netflix review: A STAR IS BORN (1976)”

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