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THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE are useless but always around. Promoters place plastic images throughout the media, tantalizing Mary Q. Housewife with visions of grandeur. Mary Q., with her rollers and middle-aged paunch, joins with the rest of her family in supporting the beautiful people by buying their records, watching their shows and imitating their styles.
Worst of all, Mary Q.'s family knows how styrofoam those personalities are, but it clings to its dreams, writing its favorite stars letters and reading gossipy fan magazines. In the method of check-out counter journalism, a star having dinner with anyone translates into an affair, and jaded, empty personalities are promoted into "great stars." Everyone knows what the beautiful people really are, but who would have thought that beautiful people would make a serious, but inevitably shallow film about beautiful, shallow people?
In A Star is Born Barbra Streisand has her usual role of the nice Jewish singer (this time named Esther Hoffman, not Fanny Brice) who falls in love with a rogue. Kris Kristofferson's beard takes the place of Omar Sharif's moustache. Tony Orlando even has a small part, but this time, he did not bring Dawn or Gerald Ford with him. Kris plays John Norman Howard, a raunchy, alcoholic rock musician on the way down. Kris wants to go back to the ranch and leave the pressured world of tours, promotions and shows but with Esther's career rising, he is forced to stay in that world, where the marriage falls apart.
John destroys himself through self-indulgence: drugs, liquor and thrill-seeking stunts. As he vainly struggles to find himself and happiness with Esther, the audience knows doom is inevitable. John goes from riding a motorcycle on stage to shooting at helicopters, all to find what a poor, prairie boy thinks is happiness. Esther manages to get him away from the drugs for a while but he dies like James Dean, in a rolled-over sports car on a lonely highway.
After a drunken John gives a concert, he grumbles to his manager, "That was shit." He could have been talking about the movie. What good can be said about a script in which Esther says, "If you die, I'll kill you"? John promises not to die, but when, at the end he does, Esther cries and screams "You lied."
A Star is Born shows the beautiful people in rare form. Not once during the film does either star have a shirt buttoned above the navel. The clothes are mostly of satin, sequins and silk. Such affectations suggest a hairdresser's touch. In fact, Jon Peters, Streisand's hairdresser and husband, produced the film--and her permanent looks great.
The film's offensiveness is heightened by the character of those involved. Barb, Jon and Kris have earned the love of millions of Americans through their regular appearances in the "People" sections of Time and Newsweek, as well as in more prurient publications. People Magazine has featured all of them. In one issue, Kristofferson, a former Rhodes Scholar and Army Captain, confessed that just as in the movie, the pressure of show business drove him to drugs and drink. But he says that with the help of his good woman, he has kicked it all and there will be no car crashes. Kristofferson also posed in Playboy with Sarah Miles, and they looked beautiful. Of all the celebrities in A Star is Born, however, Kristofferson does have one redeeming value--he despises Jon and Barb. Even so, nothing can rescue this beauty parlor epic.
People will continue to flock to the shows of the beautiful people and buy the products they endorse. There is little a reviewer can do. As one character in the film announced to a concert crowd angered at John's failure to show up: "We don't want to keep repeating this, but there are too many of you assholes out there."
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