Girl group singer Esther Hoffman (Barbara Streisand) is discovered by fading Rock icon John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) in a dingy nightclub the same night as one of his own concerts doesnít go nearly as well as planned. Knowing a star when he sees one, he quickly reinvents Esther transforming her into a Folk Rock megastar, the two falling in love every step of the way. But their journey might prove to be a tragic one, John Normanís personal demons keeping from embracing this new element in his life as fully as he desperately wants to.
Iíd never watched the 1976 version of A Star is Born before Warnerís new DigiBook Blu-ray presentation arrived for me to review. While I was familiar with the soundtrack, most obviously the Oscar-winning ďEvergreenĒ written by Streisand and Paul Williams, for whatever reason Iíd long avoided director Frank Piersonís (Soldierís Girl) remake, and for the life of me I canít quite put into words why that is.
Maybe I just inherently had an idea how boring this 140-minute movie was going to be or how unappealing Streisand and Kristofferson would end up being together, because those are the first two opinions that come across me as I finished watching this one a couple of days ago. The movie feels like nothing more than a glossy vanity project (which, if you read interviews with Pierson conducted at the time, it very much apparently was), Streisand lording over things to such an extent all else surrounding her canít help but suffer. I just wasnít captivated or involved in Esther and John Normanís relationship, and by and large I kind of couldnít help but wish the tragedy would envelope them sooner than it actually does.
Not to say A Star is Born is without merit. The songs, written by a bevy of Ď70s superstars, most notably Streisand and Williams, are incredible, and the concert sequences, most notably a climactic one Pierson apparently staged more or less live, are stunning, these moments pulsating with an electricity the rest of the film sadly lacks. There are also some solid supporting performances turned in by the likes of Gary Busey, Sally Kirkland and Paul Mazursky, their appearances energizing the proceedings almost every single time they appear.
But the appeal of Streisand and Kristofferson together? That I do not understand, because unless theyíre on a stage performing the chemistry oozing between the two of them is more or less invisible. If you donít care about the central romance itís hard to have a stake in the eventual outcome of the relationship, and thanks to that watching this remake all the way until the end was far more difficult for me than it probably had any right to be.
Still, this version of A Star is Born is not without its fans, and for all of Piersonís complaining much of the film is handsomely compiled, shot and edited together. There is workmanlike authenticity to the majority of it that fits the era and the musical scene it is set within rather nicely, and on that front I canít help but call the remake something of a moderate, if still minor, success.
A Star is Born is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (along with a plethora of additional audio options) and features optional English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Czech, Korean and Polish subtitles.
All extras are ported over from the previous 2006 DVD DigiBook and include:
∑ Audio Commentary with Barbara Streisand
∑ Wardrobe Tests with Commentary by Barbra Streisand (3:12)
∑ Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes with Optional Commentary by Barbra Streisand (16:44)
∑ Theatrical Trailer Gallery
a. A Star is Born (1937) (2:50)
b. A Star is Born (1954) (3:56)
c. A Star is Born (1976) (3:50)
The Blu-ray comes in some mightily impressive 41-page DigiBook packaging fans are sure to go crazy over. Very nice.
The songs and concert sequences aside (and both are pretty damn great), I wasnít particularly impressed with Streisandís take on A Star is Born. Still, Warnerís Blu-ray presentation is pretty awesome, and for fans deciding to pick up this DigiBook is close to a no-brainer.