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Norman Maine, a movie star whose career is on the wane, meets showgirl Esther Blodgett when he drunkenly stumbles into her act one night. A friendship develops, then blossoms into romance before tensions increase as Esther's career takes off while Norman's continues to plummet. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Alcoholic movie star Norman Maine (James Mason) meets singer Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) and gets her the screen test she needs to become a big star (and change her name to Vicki Lesterhas any name ever so desperately needed changing?).
This was not my first viewing of A Star Is Born, but it was illuminating. I certainly already believed it was a great movie, but it is far more subtle and complex than I had previously known. The movie is working on several levels at once. In one way, it's a straight-ahead musical, with some wonderful songs and production numbers. At another level, it's an 'inside Hollywood' story, and that level works remarkably well. Some of the 'events' (the opening, the Academy Awards) look almost raw in their filming style, almost like news footage, creating a powerful impression of being behind the scenes. The production numbers support that impression, with numerous bits and visuals lifted from other musicals, so that we are clued into the idea that we are seeing what "really" happened, or might have happened, on any number of film sets (at one point, An American in Paris is referenced directly).
Finally, it is a remarkably honest and true portrayal of alcoholism and marriage to an alcoholic. Esther's co-dependence is seen for what it is, her pain is real, her self-flagellation is real. If anything, the movie is overly sympathetic with Norman Maine, portraying the publicist (Jack Carson) who is disgusted with him as a villain. When I saw A Star Is Born for the first time, I was in *my* one and only relationship with an alcoholic. I wept with Judy Garland and I knew firsthand how accurately her agony was depicted. All these years later, quite recovered from any desire to go THERE again, I sympathize almost as much with the publicist. Kick the bum out! A few weeks ago I saw the train wreck that is New York, New York. It seemed like Scorcese's intention was to deconstruct, while at the same time celebrating, the 40s Hollywood musical. He wanted to show the ugliness behind those magical romances, the meanness behind those amusingly bossy men, and he still wanted to enjoy the glamour. Upon re-viewing A Star Is Born, I wondered why he bothered. It's already been done, as well as could possibly be done.
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