A Star Is Born follows Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) as she lives in Hollywood and aspires to make it big in the music industry. When alcoholic movie star Norman Maine (James Mason) falls in love with her after he hears her sing at an after-hours club, she sprints up the Hollywood ladder of fame and begins to see that fame’s perks come with heavy prices.
A Star Is Born has all the makings of a classic and has every reason to be known as such however it falters thanks to two film departments exceeding. Turns out two rights can make a wrong.
The screenwriting department did an excellect job in this movie. For some reason, a 1950s musical presenting a well-written story of sensation as well as contemplation surprises me and I don’t know why. This movie will please not only the viewers hoping for an easy experience (assuming they’re up for 3 hours of Judy Garland) but it will also please those looking for an emotional commentary on success.
The musical department also did an excellent job in this movie. Every song showcases not only a very well-produced band sound, they also showcase (and sometimes brag) the incredible voice talents of Garland so if you’re a fan of her, you’ll love this movie.
Now here’s where the movie slightly falters; the great songs and musical aspect contradict the message of the story.
The story is about the consequences that come with success in Hollywood, specifically, the movie industry. The movie pushes this message across that Hollywood is a system that chews up and spits out good talent, good talent that is used to fuel the engines of Hollywood, the movies.
So essentially, A Star Is Born pushes the message that movies are mere products of a vast and cruel system that advertises itself to be paradise. But every time the movie cuts away to a big musical number with Judy Garland’s broad vocal talents that has nothing to do with the story, they’re being a tad hypocritical.
The musical numbers themselves don’t fail and the story itself doesn’t fail, but mixing them together does leave some room for the pickier of audiences (pointing at myself) to judge.
Despite this fault, A Star Is Born still has a lot to offer. On top of the story and musical numbers I’ve already mentioned, this movie also has great cinematography and design.
When I say this movie has great cinematography, I don’t necessarily mean beautiful landscapes and peculiar angles rather than I mean great colour, which deserves thanks that should mostly go to the design department. Every shot does remind you that you are watching a musical from the 1950s with the incredibly vast colour pallete constantly on display.
Judy Garland (as previously mentioned) provides an incredible voice for the musical numbers in the film but as well as this, she also provides a great dramatic performance but in all honesty, she was hired for her voice. This isn’t really a problem, I’d just like to point it out.
James Mason is also great (for me, his performance was aided by the fact I hadn’t seen him in anything else before) but again, I was slightly distracted from his performance and more attentive to his voice not for singing, but just for how smooth and crisp it sounded. Very much like Andre Braugher, I wish to switch voices with James Mason.
The performances were great, the voices were beautiful, the design and colour was magnificent, the musical numbers were incredible, the story pleased both the viewer and pesky critic inside me and despite the fault that arose from the misplacement of the songs, I think very highly of A Star Is Born.
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