[This review contains spoilers]
There are three different versions of this film, soon to be four by next year. I think that’s interesting given the heavy nature of this picture. A Star Is Born is about a young woman that becomes a ‘somebody’, and even more so, it’s about her alcoholic husband.
Judy Garland plays Esther Blodgett, renamed as Vikki Lester. It’s what they did back then, to give you a more ‘Hollywood’ name. I find it interesting that this film in someways peels back the curtain. That the stars people idealise really are just like them, with their own flawed little lives. Norman Maine, her husband, is a drunk. He tries to go clean for her, but constantly makes a fool of himself.
He knows he has a problem, yet he can’t help himself. It leads to his wife, Esther, to wither. He inspired her to be a star, to really appreciate and share her talent, yet without him it isn’t worth anything to her.
It’s when he realises that he’s ruining her life as well as his own that he takes his life. The thing is, in this film we see him cry. I think that’s really interesting, because films now rarely show that. It also was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
A Street Car Named Desire had a man wailing with raw emotion.
I find this fascinating, because I rarely find modern Hollywood films trying to hit these types of heavy emotions. Films like that are still being made, but you have to look elsewhere to find them and I think that’s ashame. Because these films are really trying to be about something, and they were mainstream.
They weren’t indie darling, these were intended for general audiences. I wonder why Hollywood doesn’t trust the average cinema goer with this type of art any more?
A Star is Born is flawed. It has too much time spent away from the main plot, making the pace inconsistent and the film far too long. There are parts that are just a bit boring. Yet Judy Garland acts splendidly in this film and sings beautifully with some real stand out songs. The Man That Got Away is a particular highlight.
You also believe their relationship. They really did fall in love and it shows. He worked hard to make her a star. She worked just as hard to save him…but some people can’t be.
When she’s grief stricken and still able to march on. You feel it.
Life is hard, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on your knees when it tries to cut you down.
I enjoyed this film, it isn’t the best of that era, All About Eve is better. Regardless this is still a good film, it’s just not perfect.