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Talented rock star John Norman Howard has seen his career begin to decline. Too many years of concerts and managers and life on the road have made him cynical and the monotony has taken its toll. Then he meets the innocent, pure and very talented singer Esther Hoffman. As one of his songs in the movie says "I'm gonna take you girl, I'm gonna show you how." And he does. He shows Esther the way to stardom while forsaking his own career. As they fall in love, her success only makes his decline even more apparent. Written by
A. Lloyd Adams [email@example.com]
I enjoyed this 70's remake of the marvellous Judy Garland / James Mason classic from the 50's (itself a remake, film snobs) more than I expected without accepting that one isolated minute in it was better than its counterpart in the predecessor. A rocky update of the story is a decent idea and in fact lends itself well to the story-line and if the execution is a bit clunky and now dated, that's both pardonable and understandable.
Things I liked - well let's start with Kris Kristofferson who, with the more difficult part, certainly convinces as a hell-raising rock star, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, aware of tastes and fashions passing him by but with enough perception to see Streisand's Esther as the future. It's fun trying to pick out rock prototypes for his John Norman Howard character - I'm between Jim Morrison and Leon Russell myself, the latter married at the time ironically to sultry singer Rita Coolidge who herself gets a brief cameo appearance, while Howard's behaviour at Streisand's little night club where he "discovers" her recalls an infamous out of control episode in the "lost weekend" period in John Lennon's life, if memory serves. A pity they couldn't have trusted the writer of classics like "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me And Bobby McGee" to contribute some of his own songs to the soundtrack and certainly his signature song here "Watch Closely Now" gets done to death.
I also quite enjoyed the soundtrack. I'm no fan of La Diva Streisand's singing or indeed acting but at least in her vocals she exercises some restraint and delivers a surprising variety of material demonstrating at least some versatility on her part, from the title-theme ballad "Evergreen", (the gorgeous music to which was, surprisingly enough written by her), light Labelle-type funk of "I Believe in Love" and the big torch ballad "The Woman in the Moon" which while beneath Judy's "The Man That Got Away", covers the same territory in a still acceptable way.
Things not to like - Streisand herself does a reasonable job and initially tones down her trademark "kooky" and "sensitive" personae a bit but you never really believe in her as a real person. Unfortunately as the film progresses so does her profile and we get embarrassingly lame scenes with the couple coo-ing at each other in various locations including a candle-surrounded bath scene, Streisand overacting furiously as she argues with a cassette-tape of Howard's voice after he's done his James Dean-type exit from the planet and worst of all that single long shot of her singing the finale medley, which is when you appreciate that yes, it's just another Barbie vanity exercise after all (especially when you see her name down as executive producer).
The dialogue is pretty rock-star cliché throughout and some of the situations come across very second-hand too (Howard snorting up before every show, his assaults on a critical dee-jay, Streisand's MOR music somehow wowing a crowd of rock 'n' rollers at a benefit gig) and of course the familiarity with the story reduces the surprise element of some of the plot developments.
All told though, long as it was, there were far worse films than this made in the 70's. By the way, what a pity they never released the version of "Evergreen" with Kristofferson harmonising on the middle section - it works a treat and adds to an already very pretty melody.
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