This is too good to be true.
My expectations had been high, elevated even more so by the non-stop hype that started mid-summer, but this was more than I had anticipated.
The opening scene of the movie took its time introducing one of its major characters and the situation in question. "Wow," indeed. Exposition! Actual exposition, a quality that has all but disappeared from films in this age of immediate gratification. The second scene, adding another character and then a few others, was more of the same. The people on screen actually talked, and for long stretches, revealing tiny details about themselves.
The talk was small and often awkward, real-sounding.
So far, about 15 minutes have gone by, maybe 20 - and, by current standards, "nothing happened." Just people talking and relating. I was amazed that the filmmaker got away with this. There was none of the usual bulldozing or pandering to impatient modern audiences. Good.
The third scene was longer than the two previous ones, much longer. The self-revealing talk continued. Hmmm. OK, I get the point. Let's move on. I was becoming one of those aforementioned impatient moviegoers. The scene continued. It simply would not stop. I was getting annoyed. I checked my wristwatch. We're a half hour into the movie and the two lead characters are still flirting and sizing up each other. Get a room already.
Exposition is all well and good but this is just too much. Help!
The film continued for another hour - and so did the repetition. The various settings and backdrops would change but the dialogue didn't. The same conversation was repeated over and over and over again. I came to the realization that the two characters had nothing more - or new - to say.
But they continued talking and repeating themselves nevertheless.
By this point, it occurred to me that, while both were rather colorful characters, neither one was necessarily interesting. It's been posited that all drunks are dull and that's true here, what with the lead male character essentially playing one long drunk scene, mumbling and slurring words.
The lead female character is more fully developed (but just barely) because she serves, alternately, as his protégé, victim and enabler.
I came to the rude awakening that I could care less about either of them.
So, a film that originally loomed large in my head was quickly shrinking.
As music is crucial to the plot, there are songs interspersed throughout, regularly interrupting the navel-gazing dialogue. The performances of them are predictably loud. Why whisper a lyric when one can shout it out?
I went into "A Star Is Born" with high anticipation. After all, the reviews have been uniformly rhapsodic, except for The New Yorker's heroic Anthony Lane. Plus, there's been all this jumpy, overheated advance "Oscar buzz" which, frankly, means little to me. So why did I mention it?
Yes, I went in enthusiastically but, two-hours-and-fifteen minutes later, I had fully morphed into a miserable grump. I should have learned by now that it is unwise and unfair to go into a movie - any movie - with too-high expectations. Or just plain high expectations. And when the inevitable letdown sets in, who's exactly at fault - the movie or the moviegoer?
Note in Passing: The material for "A Star Is Born" has been the source of no fewer than five - count 'em - five films, starting with "What Price Hollywood?" in 1932. The others, all titled "A Star Is Born," were released in 1934, 1954, 1978 and 2018. (George Cukor directed both the original 1932 film and the 1954 Judy Garland remake.) Perhaps someone can explain exactly why Hollywood finds the basic plotline so irresistible.
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~Grant Williams and his pet cat in "The Incredible Shrinking Man"
~photography: Universal-International 1957©