Movies drenched in ’70s regalia shouldn’t age as gracefully as A Star is Born.
Sure, the film’s unorthodox casting, mockable dialogue and uproarious costumes haven’t improved with time, but its train wreck appeal feels at home in our reality television age. And once Barbra Streisand rips into the Oscar-winning Evergreen, you get all the more eager to see what director Clint Eastwood can bring to a promised fourth spin on the classic Hollywood tale.
A Star is Born, out today on Blu-ray in a slick book presentation featuring stills from the film, arrives without the hoopla that greeted its theatrical bow back in 1976.
Kris Kristofferson stars as John Norman Howard, your prototypical ’70s rocker complete with facial hair, alcohol dependency and a penchant for self-destruction. He eases up on the latter when he meets Esther Hoffman (Streisand), an aspiring singer who looks nothing like the groupies that float in and out of his limousine.
No one tell Streisand she’s too young for the ingenue role.
Esther plays coy for a while, but John’s blinding good looks overwhelm her emotional defenses. He’s similarly dazed, eager to ditch the excesses of the rock star lifestyle to be with her 24/7.
With his tutelage, Esther’s star begins to blaze, while his erratic behavior threatens to leave him to the dust bin of fading rock legends.
John and Esther’s early scenes play out like pure parody, with Streisand doing little to hide her obvious star power and natural New York accent. Kristofferson, in turn, is so cardboard stiff he threatens to shred her with a thousand paper cuts, not entrance her with his rock star musk.
Slowly, the stars assume their roles with more authority, but the film’s slapdash attempt at narrative momentum keeps intruding. Yet A Star is Born is compulsively watchable, especially when it’s time for Streisand to belt out another tune to show her character’s ascent.
The film is light years from perfection, but it provides a time capsule of not only Streisand unwilling to let fully go of her persona but of a rock era where the music mattered. The film captures what it meant to be a rock star long ago, from the parade of hangers on to the ability to make your problems disappear with one well-placed check.
If only Esther sang rock ‘n’ roll and not dreamy ballads that any American Idol would gladly cover. Kristofferson’s rock star numbers don’t serve the theme, either, even if he delivers them with the proper preening.
A Star is Born can be picked apart, dissected and shredded, but it’s still entertaining every clinical step of the way.
The Blu-ray extras include plenty of Streisand memories. The star can be heard on the commentary track, narrating wardrobe test sessions and deleted scenes, and she shares tidbits about the film that will appeal solely to Barbra fanatics.
Did you know she likes to eat Chinese food in the recording studio?
The best deleted moment finds Esther teasing out Evergreen on an acoustic guitar, a quiet moment that should have made the final cut.