A Star is Born (1976)

A Star Is Born has been adapted multiple times, and surely will be adapted again. It is a great showcase for a talented young(ish) thing to strut her stuff under the guise of being a raw talent that gets discovered, molded and shaped by a veteran performer on the verge of burnout. In this version, the story moves from the Hollywood silver screen to the world of 70s rock and roll (which, unsurprisingly, totally works). The hugely successful rock star is John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) who staggers away from his own show, drunk and coked up, and stumbles into a bar where he gets into a fist fight with Freddy Krueger (Yes! That’s Robert Englund!). The cause of the fight? Shoot, he was just trying to listen to the sassy, super-talented bar singer, Esther Hoffman (Barbra Streisand) and her girl-group, the Oreos (Really! Two black girls and Babs sporting a white-girl ‘fro!).

John Norman is completely taken by Esther and her inarguably awesome pipes, and at the same time Esther is baffled and a bit bemused in a jaded-divorcee-way by his puppy dog infatuation. He is, after all, a huge rock star that can fill stadiums. But Esther has been around the block herself and finds herself flattered by John Norman’s attention, and intrigued by all that he has to offer. Next thing you know, Esther’s star is on the rise, and John Norman, despite the love of a good woman, is spiralling further out of control.

The story is truly a showcase for the star, and Barbra Streisand is no exception. She scored an absolute monster hit from the soundtrack with “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)” which not only got her a Grammy for Song of the Year, but an Oscar as well. You’d think that Streisand and Kristofferson are an odd couple (they truly are), but try to deny the affection they show towards each other, especially in the scene where they record “Evergreen” together in the studio.

The movie itself isn’t stellar, alas, but it was not the stinker I was expecting. Kris Kristofferson is in total 70s shaggy-hair foxy rock star mode, and he works it (despite literally bathing his face in booze). Barbra pretty much plays Barbra, but do we expect anything less? Esther transforms from a high-waisted-jeans kinda gal into a woman that gets her own Blu-ray extra describing her fashion sense (from headbands, to ponchos, to tube socks combined with white short-shorts!). Where their chemistry as lovers may sometimes be in doubt, the two play off each other surprisingly well, especially when John Norman pets Esther’s nose while she sleeps.

Though John Norman’s fate is spelled out from the start, you know that Esther is stronger than her man. She is the type of performer that can sing a song about her doomed lover while crying and still get a standing ovation. John Norman finds redemption (a little too late), and Esther becomes the star she was meant to be. You know that when Esther rips a cassette from a player and unthreads the tape violently in anguish, that she’ll eventually recover. She’ll be fine, just fine.

BLU-RAY NOTES

Though A Star is Born is not as great of a movie as, say, Judy Garland’s heartbreaking version from 1957, it still holds its own as a 1970s rock and roll timecapsule. The Blu-ray book contains behind the scenes and production photos from the time, with brief explanatory text. Streisand herself offers a commentary track for the film. Other extras include the aforementioned focus on Esther’s varied 70s-rific wardrobe, as well as deleted scenes (with commentary by Streisand) and trailers of all three versions of the film.

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