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  Star is Born, A Her Hair Is Large And She Is In Charge
Year: 1976
Director: Frank Pierson
Stars: Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Busey, Oliver Clark, Venetta Fields, Clydie King, Marta Heflin, M.G. Kelly, Sally Kirkland, Joanne Linville, Uncle Rudy, Paul Mazursky, Rita Coolidge, Tony Orlando, Booker T. Jones, Robert Englund
Genre: Drama, Romance, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: He's late. John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson), the rock megastar, should have been on stage a while ago, but he's keeping the crowd waiting, and they are growing impatient as his manager Bobby Ritchie (Gary Busey) tries to find out where he has got to. Suddenly, he appears, bottle in hand, and barges past everyone making no excuses whereupon he starts up with one of his biggest hits and the audience forgive him everything, simply delighted the show has begun at last. John manages to get through it in spite of his inebriation, and heads off to the nearest bar, no matter that Bobby has warned him he has to get a good night's sleep because he has a concert tomorrow. Ignoring this, he plonks himself down in front of the bar's singing act and proceeds to get into a fight...

Now, the man he fights is Robert Englund, pre-Freddy Krueger, which in many other films would be notable enough on its own, but that was without considering who was performing in that club: step forward Barbra Streisand, playing Esther Hoffman, a minor but hopeful talent whose life is about to get a huge boost thanks to the interest from Howard. If you could buy her acting as a nobody, then you might be able to accept the false modesty that afflicted much of her characterisation, but at the time the whole project turned into a stick to beat her with as she was at the height of her fame and many were wishing to cut her down thanks to widely publicised diva behaviour. Especially when making this film, widely regarded as a monstrous vanity project.

Yet whether that was La Streisand's vanity or that of her business and romantic partner Jon Peters (also the hairdresser responsible for her tight perm) was a bone of contention; her fans would tell you she was under his influence and not in her right mind when she was with him, while her critics would say that's what she was like anyway and he may have been an enabler but brought out the ego monster that had been present before, and after their relationship. Whichever, it was clear this, the second remake of A Star is Born, was Hell to make thanks to both of them unwilling to allow their employees to do their jobs without interference, seemingly born of a paranoia that the star of the title was not going to be represented at her best unless she and Peters had their orders followed to the letter: how galling to that harassed crew this was the second biggest movie of the year behind Rocky.

Therefore this production left a lot of bad blood among its ranks, and the critics pounced, with The Village Voice famously retitling the movie "A Bore is Starred" thanks to Streisand's obsessive hogging of the limelight for well over two hours. What made it interesting for other reasons was, for instance, the well-known fact that Elvis Presley was asked to take the Norman role but had been prevented by his grasping manager Colonel Tom Parker - could this have been the comeback that would have saved the King of Rock 'n' Roll? Judging by the nightmare that the shoot entailed, it might have killed him off a year earlier, but the what if musings are strong with this one, though truth be told while Kristofferson was decidedly not enjoying himself and possibly as inebriated as his character, he remained probably the best thing about it as far as the acting went.

Not that anyone else was getting a look in, as for example the other (black) members of Esther's group the Oreos were not even given names, and everyone else was steamrollered into the margins of keeping Babs centre stage for as much of the plot as possible. That plot had Norman take her under his wing, then fall for her, but the path to fame was portrayed as so simple (as was the path to heartache, granted) that it just took one concert to turn our heroine into a Grammy-winning superstar, where she is "forced" up onto the stage by her boyfriend and brings the house down. Now, two issues with that: if you went to see a Kris Kristofferson gig and Barbra Streisand replaced him after half a song, you might grumble. But in the context of the movie, if you went to see a rock star and his girlfriend took the mic for the rest of the night, would you really be welcoming her with open arms? But that was simply one example of far too much self-aggrandising that would be hard to take for anyone but her most devoted fans, and the way the songs were presented with the camera focused on her face did not dispel that impression, the finale a marathon of intense bad taste, penned by Paul Williams, the shame. Almost worth seeing for its sheer self-centred histrionics.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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