It’s 1976 and you’ve got a great idea for a film. You’ve got this great property called A Star Is Born that has been around since 1937, but what you do is you bring it up to date and set it in today’s wacky, drugged-out world of rock & roll.
You get some classy writers to rework it, you put on a real outdoor rock concert to get your authenticity, you put on the payroll some bona fide songwriters like Paul Williams and Leon Russell and you get some guy like Kris Kristofferson to play your rock star – never mind that he can’t sing rock.
Then, when you have all that, you wrap it all around a blue-chip star like Barbra Streisand – who is executive producer, in charge of “musical concepts”, and whose own closet provided her wardrobe (or so the credits state).
And what do you get? You get a terrific bore.
If Bill Graham didn’t appear for about two seconds and if you didn’t happen to recognise Booker T Jones, and if you weren’t reminded constantly that Kris is a rock star, you would not know that this film had anything to do with rock & roll.
But Kris is less than a one-dimensional character in the film. He’s more superfluous than that. He’s a foil for Streisand and she takes control of the movie immediately.
After Kris’s concert (it doesn’t really matter but his character is called John Norman Howard and Streisand’s is Esther Hoffman) he and his inner demons go out club-hopping and he discovers Streisand singing in a little club.
He is smitten mightily by this impish, big-nosed kid with ringlets . . . not only is she a looker but her pipes are great. That’s the plot. The rest of the tedium consists of Kris pursuing her, winning her and making her a singing star while simultaneously flushing his own career down the nearest waste receptacle.
When she finally becomes a certified superstar, he recognises his own superfluousness and mounts his Ferrari in the clear desert morn and – Schlitz tall-boy in hand – rides it out of sight until it becomes airborne at 160 mph. That proves fatal.
This enables Streisand to pursue her career without having a morose drunk around to slow her down. She still loves the big lug, though, and always will – as the last interminable eight minutes or so of the film prove.
She gets on that stage and – with glycerine tears flowing – she sings the first song they wrote together. It’s a very intense scene. If only the music had been better. If only Kris and Streisand were rock singers.
A couple of her eight songs are true Streisand numbers, but most emerge as bad imitations of Mick Jagger, serving at best to interrupt the pure boredom the film generates, with self-indulgence rampant in the 140-minute vanity production.
John Norman Howard