A Star Is Born (1976)
Rating -

Musical (US); 1976; Rated R; 139 Minutes

Barbra Streisand: Esther Hoffman
Kris Kristofferson: John Norman Howard
Gary Busey: Bobbie Ritchie
Oliver Clark: Gary Danziger
Marta Heflin: Quentin
M. G. Kelly: Bebe Jesus

Produced by Jon Peters and Barbra Streisand; Directed by Frank Pierson; Screenwritten by Robert Carson, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunn, Frank Pierson and William A. Wellman

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Exposure to life-pleasing elements in early life sets up your tastes and fetishes for the future. Early life is the cycleís first chance to develop your personal interests and talents, as is the second stage of your life is to experience them for the first time. If you have had that special talent or urge like playing an instrument, itís usually around your early-to-middle teens before they finally unleash themselves and influence your decisions for the future.

I would not be here reviewing movies right now if it were not for the influence of seeing great movies in my early childhood. Aside from the childrenís classics, like "Bambi" and "Sleeping Beauty," "A Star Is Born" was the first masterpiece I had been exposed to, and, perhaps, it is to blame for my love of film criticism.

Now hearing that I saw the 1976 remake of "A Star Is Born" in my early childhood may brew up some mischief, since the film is rated faithfully "R." In order for you to understand the reasons, I must first shed some light on my background. Growing up in a household filled with exceptionally lewd language (mainly from my father) would seem like a picnic compared to the words Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson say in this picture. Not only did their bravery of saying those things in front of everybody impress me, but so did the vision and style of the picture, which, as I so sadly learned later on in my life, was closely related to the images of famous rock stars, like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who took drugs galore just as their careers reached their peaks, all eventually leading to their deaths.

Here, the stoned-up rock star is John Norman Howard, and he is played by Kristofferson in a vibrant, savage, and unruly treatment of his characteristics of that time period. He does a concert, loads up with cocaine, forgets the words, walks off the stage, and into his limousine. The driver asks him "where to?," and he replies, "back about ten years."

Just when the drugs take over his life, he encounters a singer in a lounge named Esther Hoffman, played by Barbra Streisand, who he sees as tomorrowís rising star. In the middle of a show, he interrupts the music to introduce her to the world, and just as her career takes off, his crumbles severely.

One scene in particular pursues his downfall. After being injured from driving a motorcycle into the audience of a concert, he kicks back in his pool, unaware that, at the time, a chopper swirls overhead, with an obsessed radio personality inside. Howard takes out his gun and shoots the chopper away, all later to meet up with him again right there at the radio station, ready to apologize for his actions.

It may seem like the movie is Kristoffersonís, but the show belongs to Streisand (as usual). Her voice, her characterizations play almost exact to those of her real life persona, and itís no wonder why the interviews and performances in the movie are actually segments of actual footage of Streisand. From describing the ways she records music to the ways she sings in outdoor arenas, Esther Hoffman IS Barbra Streisand, and Streisand IS Esther Hoffman. It was as if the role was made for her.

This would be considerably hard, since the movie is actually a remake. Oh yes, two, great visions have come before this one, and for their time, they also demonstrated the popularity and the misfortune of famous stars, be they in Hollywood or on stage.

The 1950s version portrayed James Masonís character as an alcoholic actor who lost his career and reason to act because of his wife, the rising star of Hollywood, played by Judy Garland. I have no doubt that Streisand had wanted this role for herself, since it followed in the footsteps of one of her greatest influences in life.

It sounds uncanny, but it isnít. Judyís character, as stated by some Hollywood legends, WAS Judy Garland, and that may be how the screenwriters of the 1976 remake felt when they wrote the script and fit the star role with the persona of Streisandís characteristics. Whether or not they wrote the script or cast the characters first is up in the air, as far as I know.

Itís Streisandís movie, and Streisandís character. Need I say more?

© 1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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