Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

A Star is Born (1954) Review


It’s time to look at the second adaption of A Star is Born. The film plays it pretty straight compared to the first movie so there aren’t a lot of changes. Mainly it’s the heroine’s backstory that has been altered for this one. In the first film she had a modest upbringing and wanted to follow her dreams of being a movie star. In this one she is already a pretty talented singer but is then given the opportunity to be a star thanks to being noticed by Norman Maine. She can’t turn down an opportunity like that right?

The basic plot revolves around both Norman and Esther. Norman used to be a very big star, but he became an alcoholic and ever since then his talents have suffered. Nobody wants to work with him at this point and even though he is under contract that may not be the case for long. One night he spots Esther and decides that she is someone who should be a part of Hollywood. He gets her the audition and her talents take her the rest of the way. They get married, but the problem is that Esther’s fame quickly eclipses Norman and his ego isn’t ready for this. He starts going back into his spiral of doom and threatens to destroy both of their careers once and for all.

This movie does try to make Norman a little less antagonistic although his being drunk is a crucial part of the movie. In the original he broke Esther’s Oscar statue while at least here is showed some restraint there. Still, he’s not a character that you are likely going to root for. He is simply too far gone and from the start he gets hurt too quickly when people don’t recognize him. Even in the first minutes of the film before Esther is introduced he is already getting himself into a lot of trouble. As the judge says later on, he got a lot of advantages that nobody else had and yet he squandered them all. Even at the end of the film he takes the easy way out. Sure, he was doing it for Esther’s sake so he wouldn’t sabotage her anymore, but at the same time that’s also saying that he couldn’t stop his bad habits.

As for Esther, she’s definitely a solid character. I’d say that she was more likable here than in the first film as well. As she was already a singer she was well equipped for Hollywood from the start. She never felt out of her depth or anything like that and dived right into the action. Even once the difficulties with Norman started to arise she always put it behind her and acted as always. Once it became obvious that her success wasn’t helping matters she was willing to throw it all away to help him. Esther’s definitely a selfless heroine and one that is easy to root for.

Libby serves as one of the antagonists here to an extent. He may be Norman’s agent, but he definitely doesn’t like the guy. He waits for the day it all catches up to Norman and seems to be bitter about all the times Norman threw him through windows or caused a general mess of things. He gloats a lot by the end. He’s a pretty fun character and definitely made sure Norman did not recover. Meanwhile Niles is a guy from Hollywood who actually was looking out for Norman. He did his best all things considered. While he was not quite able to help him in the end you can’t say that he didn’t try.

Then you have Danny who is probably in the most tragic situation. He helped Esther get a career but was then thrown away once she had this gig. He was always trying to help her, but got friend zoned in favor of Norman. Still, he never stopped being her friend so that was definitely nice of him. Even by the end he is the one who comes in with the speech to finally help her get a hold of the situation.

As for the musical aspect of the film, it was okay although I can’t really say that the songs were my thing. They sounded well enough but the beats weren’t fast enough and the singers were only okay. You’re not going to find anyone at the level of “Let It Go” here. Not every film needs to have a standout number like that though. The scene of Esther running about the house showing her latest number to Norman also was maybe a tad too long. The musical did show restraint with the number of songs though, at times you may not have even known this was a musical to be honest. Songs are featured, but it’s not quite as constant as something like High School Musical. Of course, it helps that this movie is about 3 hours so you have time for both the songs and the plot.

The writing is pretty solid as well. The characters are pretty quick witted. Norman’s sudden personality shifts from being aggressive to normal are very rapid which works well for how his character went. The romance between him and Esther is pretty weak though. It’s hard to see it escalating so quickly considering that he almost ruined her dancing number and then comes across as very over the top. She goes from treating him as a nuisance right away to quickly becoming more than friends. It all happens so quickly and I dare say that the original one made more sense. At least there you could also say that it was part gratitude since he helped her from nearly being penniless to being a star. Here? He forgot about her for several weeks after convincing her to quit her job. She shouldn’t be all that grateful after such a turn of events.

Overall, A Star is Born has its solid moments, but still does suffer from a pretty weak ending. It’s definitely not a very satisfactory way to end the movie as in a sense Norman lost. He proved everyone else right and while Esther’s legacy hasn’t been tarnished, it would have been good for both of them to have gotten their win. Esther ensured that Norman wouldn’t be forgotten with her final line in the film so as always she did a good job of making the best of the situation. As the movie is also very long there isn’t a whole lot of replay value here, but it’s not a bad movie. It’s good for a one time watch at least and as long as you can get around the fact that you can’t root for Norman then I’d recommend checking it out.

Overall 5/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

A Star is Born Review


It’s time to look at the original version of A Star is Born. It’s definitely a title that I’m sure just about everyone is familiar with thanks to all of the remakes. Does it really hold up to such an illustrious legacy though? It’s not a bad film, but the second half does ultimately end up hurting the movie. It’s an ending that isn’t particularly great and one character is pretty annoying the whole time.

The film starts off with a girl named Esther expressing her desire to be an actress. Her family almost literally laughs her out of the house so her grandmother tells her to pursue her dreams. Esther heads on the train to Hollywood and gets ready to be famous. The problem is that there are a lot of other people who want to be famous and so she has hit a dead end. She meets a guy named Danny who has some connections, but instead of a part in the picture she is relegated to maid service. Still, this works out as she is noticed by washed up actor Norman who still has a lot of influence within the company. He’s happy to help her get famous so that they can get married, but when she begins to exceed his popularity can he handle the pressure?

One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of the old school male leads is that most of them seem to be really insecure. The instant that the heroine passes them they start getting really whiny and petty. Unfortunately Norman is no exception. He crashes her party and sulks for the majority of the movie. It’s easy to forget that they’re together at times. I’d give him credit for retiring and all, but he then starts to get into fights and tarnishes her reputation. He even gets thrown into the asylum for his antics. Sure, Norman’s over the hill, but he was famous for a while so you’d think that he could at least enjoy that part. Of course, how famous he ever was is probably debatable since nobody seems to even know the poor guy.

Esther is certainly a much better character. Her only weakness is that she gets emotional very quickly as she cries if you insult her. Fortunately I’d say that showbiz went well for her and has toughened her up by the end. She is able to put up a strong front and her talent was shown to be the real deal. She didn’t just go to Hollywood, she excelled while she was there. It’s also good that her granny was around to keep her on the right track as she almost made a big mistake at the end of the film. So, Esther was solid, but I think if she was less emotional then she would have been even better.

Meanwhile we have Danny, who was an interesting character. His voice is incredibly memorable so odds are that it is the part about him that you will remember the most. I’m not sure if it was intentionally humorous or not, but it did make him fun. His first scene was a bit rough though as he starts yelling as Esther for no reason. That scene probably could have been cut out since it makes absolutely no sense. He pretty much gets written out once Norman shows up though. Norman’s pr agent makes for an intense, albeit mean spirited character. He’s good at his job and he can even fight so you can’t ask for much more than that. Meanwhile the owner of the company is a nice enough guy. He kept trying to help Norman even when the actor made that difficult.

As for the ending, while it was unexpected I can’t say that it was good. If anything it just makes Norman look a whole lot worse than he was looking already. Rather than accept the new status quo and turn his act together he figures that it’s time for desperate measures. His answer is never the proper answer to anything. It’s just a way to escape a problem, not a way to solve one. I wonder if the newer films will switch that ending. I hope they do since it will definitely help the character be a little more redeemable.

As for the writing, it’s pretty solid for the most part. When the film attempts some humor scenes they tend to work well like Norman’s beer with a touch of soda gag. The romance isn’t handled quite as well as it’s hard to take Norman seriously since it seems like he typically likes flirting with everyone. It doesn’t make him look all that genuine but I suppose we can give him the benefit of the doubt. Esther just seems a little too trusting and quick to romance as well. Given that her goal is to be the best, I feel like romance would just be a big distraction for her. Ah well. The film’s pacing is pretty solid and although the film is fairly long it never drags on which is always important.

Overall, A Star is Born is a reasonable film. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but it was passable. The idea of someone walking into Hollywood and then rising to the top is a classic, but consistent premise. If executed well it makes for a nice, uplifting story. If it’s cashed in then it ends up being super cheesy and you wonder what happened to the other actors for them to all be surpassed in such a short amount of time. I’ll probably see the remakes soon and I get the feeling that they may have the edge this time, but if you haven’t seen the original it’s probably worth checking out. It is a classic after all.

Overall 5/10