Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
They should’ve changed the names in the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born. I love the 1954 remake with Judy Garland and James Mason so much that no other actors should use their characters’ names. If the 70s’ filmmakers really wanted believable characters, the stars should’ve had names that didn’t remind me of the previous remake (haven’t watched 1937 original) and sounded a little more hip. But that’s only skimming the surface of what’s wrong with what may be considered executive producer Ms. Streisand’s directorial debut (to the exasperation of director Frank Pierson who is not on the DVD’s audio commentary with her). Babs and co-star Kris Kristofferson didn’t really connect with me as an instant glam couple, she lacked the vulnerable, innocent quality of a singer not discovered yet, most songs were sung without editing and the script reeked with throwaway cliches in a too-familiar, cinematic weeper.
That said I really do like Barbra, but while she can sing anything with great success I don’t think the same can be said for her acting any role. Her movies are a series of hits and a few misses. This one was definitely a box office smash, raking in seventy plus million, but I’m judging it as a film and not a concert experience. Note that it was the first film to use Dolby Surround Sound and you realize how much of a priority and draw the music, a clash of growly rock and contemporary, perhaps kitschy pop, really was. I’ve been enjoying Kristofferson’s early country music and so I cringed when I heard his harsh rock music for the movie.
So we have a famous rock star becoming burnt out and self-destructive who takes one look at a lead singer in a Supremes-like musical act in a second-rate nightclub and can’t take his eyes off her. When he starts a drunken fight he grabs her and she goes with him. And so begins their doomed love affair as he loses his audience and band and she gains them with his help. Of course we assume that rock fans also love contemporary pop that in the 70s meant disco-y and kitschy, helmed by Kenny Loggins, Paul Williams and Rupert Hines. Then the rock star feels like a nobody and hates it (he should’ve played Kristofferson’s country song “Just the Other Side of Nowhere”), but is torn between pride and envy of his wife. Her meteoric rise that leads to a Grammy is more than he can handle and he realizes he’s not helping her career anymore.
Can you guess what he does? You might not have the details completely right, but I’m sure you’ve guessed it. Unfortunately this movie is more of a Barbra show and we focus on her character’s reaction to Kris’ character more than his brooding reaction to her. I knew what was coming, especially when his actions broadcast it, but the cliché ending for a rock star disappointed me. It felt like it was a required ending because it was a remake.
Streisand wears clothes out of her closet and looks a little too classy all of the time while Kristofferson looks like the perfect, hippie-ish rock star who drinks and snorts. Truly he has the part down and that helps to ground A Star Is Born, but why the hardened rock star falls so much in love with the pop singer is pretty much a mystery to me. Maybe if there had been less music there would’ve been more time for story development. Yes, they’re both sexy and look great together, and Babs can cry, but I didn’t feel any weight to their love. I’ve read that Kristofferson commented that filming with her may have cured him of the movies, but fortunately he’s still making them. I’ve also read that she wanted Elvis Presley for the rock star, but Col. Parker must’ve asked for too much money.
Other actors like Gary Busey, Paul Mazurkey…and I can’t even think of anyone else were mere background support. It was 139 minutes and rated R, but it’s pretty tame compared to R-rated films today with only implied sex, some violence, and, okay, hard drug use. While I enjoy it and recommend it especially to fans of the stars, I wish it had been more believable, edited and original. I have yet to see the DVD’s deleted scenes that Barbra comments on, but I’ll skip her other commentary.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age