Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Star is Born (1976)

Today I’m here to tell you about one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure why I bothered, either with the writing or the viewing, but having had the good fortune of meeting Paul Williams and finding him a likeable and pleasant person, I have been delving into his back catalogue. The body of work attached to his name is, alas, quite variable, and there seems to be an inverse relationship between his best work and his best known. Unfortunately, this review is not about Phantom of the Paradise or the Muppet Movie or even The Loved One (though that’s coming, too). No, we’re here today to talk about the Barbra Streisand classic, A Star is Born.

A remake of a remake of a story that we’ve all heard about ten million times by now, my rehash of the plot might be laying it on a bit thick. Instead, I will focus on a list of things that are totally stupid about this film.

1. Barbra Streisand’s hair. Her nails have been discussed elsewhere, in great detail, and I won’t go into that except to mention that I’ve always had a pet peeve about long fingernails and their presence causes the bearer to be instantly unattractive to me (and watching her play guitar was excruciating). But the hair is fixable, and was not. I kept waiting for the “star makeover” scene where they’d tell her to grow out that perm or something. Best shot is when she’s backlit with this hair-lo.
2. Barbra Streisand as a naïve wanna-be. Ebert has discussed this in his own review, and it’s true. Her attitude through the film, ostensibly supposed to be plucky underdog, doesn’t work next to the BARBRA image she projects. Maybe not her fault, but it’s probably not the audience’s, either.

3. The apparent 1-for-1 relationship between a scummy rock star like John Norman Howard and brassy adult-contemp songstress Esther (Esther? Don’t even get me started on that). So she goes on instead of him and the audience eats it up? Who are these people? And why are their disappointed expectations so easily navigated?

4. The improbable construction montage in the desert. According to this little gem, which includes Barbra cavorting in Superman underwear, she and Kris built their little adobe hideaway all by themselves in about 10 minutes.

5. The exploration of the creative process as displayed in the film. Apparently a drunk Kris Kristofferson can sit down with his guitar and not only come up with some nice chords to strum but a melody and words ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Maybe this is unfair. Maybe this is how he actually wrote “Bobby McGee.” I haven’t asked him.

6. Paul Williams isn’t anywhere to be seen. I miss him.

7. Any scene where Barbra sings anything remotely resembling a rock song. “Evergreen” is where it’s at, babe. For what it is, it's okay, and plays to her strengths. Maybe she and Paul should have written her other songs, too.

8. Oh yeah, Kris Kristofferson’s beard. I know that was the style, and it seems to be returning, but ick.

9. The fact I can’t even bring myself to write a decent review of this movie but am reduced to making a stupid list.

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