“The public loves me” slurs a drunken Norman Maine, and that may be so, but the press and the studio heads have had just about enough of his shenanigans. His star’s been dimming, his films flopping, and he’s aging in the wrong direction. It’s a wonder to Vicki Lester that he’s still in pictures at all – this after he’s crashed her starring number on stage.
She agrees to go out with him because he’s still quite charming, and perhaps his fame dazzles her. Certainly it’s easy for a less-naive girl like me to shout at her angrily. He’s already been a drunken, selfish buffoon. Usually you have to sleep with them and get half-attached before they show their true colours, but Norman (James Mason) laid all his ugly cards out on the table for her, and Vicki (Judy Garland), with stars in her eyes, was just too dumb to notice. And as if dinner wasn’t bad enough, she risks everything she’s ever worked for to skip out on her tour and go out for a screen test on his say so. I can’t tell if she’s a star-fucker or if she’s just willing to put out in order to advance her career. Oh, I know, I know: this version of A Star Is Born, a pretty faithful remake of the one previous, is beloved. And apparently romantic, though it must be said, this feels very much like a one-woman show. A fine show, a spectacle. Garland is a phenom. But you get the feeling that her co-star may have felt as eclipsed as his onscreen persona.
The studio cut out 30 minutes of film against the director’s wishes. The version I rented was a “restored” 176-minute version that uses production stills in place of the missing footage, layered with flawlessly restored dialogue. Still, it’s kind of frustrating. The camera pans over photographs for an extra 30 minutes of run time, which brings this baby up to 3 hours. It’s a lot. It’s too much. Though it still feels shorter than the Barbra Streisand monstrosity which is technically shorter but suffers from the bloat.
Anyway, as wonderful as Judy Garland is, I’m finding my tolerance for bad men to be low. Or at least, for pretending that bad men are good. Any woman with half a cell in her pretty little head should have seen this trainwreck coming a mile away. Norman Maine sends up all the flares, all the red flags. If Vicki had had a mother or a sister or a best friend, that man would have had the Beyonce treatment long ago, and A Star would have been Born much quicker, much hotter, without an ugly old asteroid holding her down.
[The Beyonce treatment, sing it with me: to the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left.]