Tag Archives: Kris Kristofferson

A Star is Born (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: His career goes downhill.

John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) is a famous rock singer who’s found that his career on the road has taken its toll. He’s become jaded by the money and fame and now bored with it while spending his days and nights committing self-destructive acts that alienate the rest of his crew. One night after walking off the stage of his own concert after singing only a few songs he goes to a bar where he sees Esther (Barbra Streisand) singing on stage. He becomes impressed by her talent and uses his resources to make her a star. The two eventually get married, but as her career continues to rise his goes in decline.

This is the third remake of the story that was originally written by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson. The first version came out in 1937 and starred Frederic March and Janet Gaynor while the second one was released in 1954 and starred James Mason and Judy Garland. This version differs from the other two in that the setting was the music scene instead of the movie business, but overall the efforts here to revitalize the tired formula are trite and predictable.

A lot of the blame can go to Streisand who acted as both the star and producer to the project. For one thing she was too old for the part as she was already in her mid-30’s when this was filmed and wearing a tacky afro hairstyle to boot. It would’ve been more effective had a truly young person, like a woman who was 19, which is a typical age for someone to have dreams of breaking into the rock scene, was cast. Possibly having the character start out as one of Kristofferson’s groupies, instead of doing it like it’s done here where he just meets her at random at a bar, which is awkward and forced, and then through their time together he learns of her aspirations and talents and works to help her meet her potential.

It also would’ve helped had the young starlet had the same singing style as Kristofferson, which would’ve made the concert scene where he walks off stage and brings Esther onto it more believable. Kristofferson’s music, or what little we hear of it, has clearly a more hard rock edge while Streisand sings mellow love songs. In the movie we’re supposed to believe that all these fans who paid good money to see Kristofferson sing are suddenly without warning given Streisand instead and are so taken aback by her talent that they all clap and cheer when in reality I think they would’ve been upset and demanding their money back as they came to hear hard rock and not the lite stuff.

I enjoyed Kristofferson’s performance and his impulsive self-destructive acts give the film energy and edge. However, the chemistry between the two is non-existent and he later said that working with Streisand was “an experience which may of cured me of the movies.” His decline gets handled in a rushed, heavy-handed way. Music careers are by their very nature cyclical. Rock stars get replaced with every generation as teens prefer their own singing idols and not those of their parents. For him to become so quickly devastated when his record sales begin to plummet is unrealistic as nobody stays on top forever. He should have enough money to wade out the career lulls and simply held on to when his fans grew up and became nostalgic and then hit the retro tour circuit like many of the pop/rock icons from the past do.

Streisand’s character is flat, one-dimensional, and just plain too-good-to-be-true. She’s well known in real-life for her notorious ego, in fact director Frank Pierson described her as being egocentric, manipulative, and controlling and refused to ever work with her again, so having her then portray someone who is gracious and humble seems very phony and not something that she’s effectively able to convey. The original concept was to have the character be like Janis Joplin and go through a self-destructive decline of her own, but Streisand nixed this idea, which is unfortunate as it would’ve given the film some needed nuance.

The footage of the massive crowds at the concerts is the one element that I found impressive and the segment showing the vast stretch of land that Kristofferson owned in the middle of the Arizona desert was pretty cool too. Everything else though in this otherwise overlong film is boring. Fans of Streisand’s singing may take to it better, but there’s too much of it, making it seem like this was just one big vanity project for her and nothing more.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1976

Runtime: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Frank Pierson

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive),  Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Blume in Love (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cheating husband seeks reconciliation.

Stephen Blume (George Segal) is a successful divorce lawyer who suddenly finds himself stuck in a break-up of his own when his wife (Susan Anspach) catches him cheating with his secretary and then leaves him. Now Blume becomes obsessed with winning her back and even starts up a friendship with her new live-in lover (Kris Kristofferson), but as his frustrations boil over he begins to react in violent ways when he can’t get what he wants.

Director Paul Mazursky delivers another insightful look at love and marriage and how the two aren’t always compatible. The narrative works in a fragmented style where clips of the different stages of the relationship are shown at various times and allows the viewer to see the many changes the two go through particularly with our protagonist whose internal flaws are ingloriously displayed for all to see. Normally this could prove a turn-off, but Segal manages to keep the character painfully human enough to be engaging most of the way even though he eventually overstays his welcome.

Mazursky gives the proceedings an artsy, cinema vertite flair especially with the way he captures St. Mark’s Square in Venice and by creating an offbeat romance that is filled with caustic humor. I also enjoyed the supporting cast including Marsha Mason as Blume’s new girlfriend who has a strong bit when she tearfully admits that she will ashamedly remain with Blume even after he acknowledges to her that he thinks only about his wife when the two make love.

Donald F. Muhich is fun as the psychiatrist. He was Mazursky’s real-life analyst and got paid back by being cast in four of his movies. His facial expressions and responses to his patients are so spot-on that it makes you feel like you’re attending an actual patient-doctor session.

Even Kristofferson does well in a part that takes advantage of his laid-back acting style though his character’s friendship with Blume gets overplayed. I felt even the most easy going of people would’ve drawn some boundaries and never have tolerated an ex-husband being around as much as he was. The scene where he finally does punch Blume, which should’ve come a lot sooner, gets totally botched because it has Kristofferson breaking down into a teary-eyed wail right afterwards for no apparent reason.

The film’s biggest flaw though is its manufactured happy ending that makes no sense. Blume was clearly too selfish and immature to have a healthy relationship with anyone and the fact that Anspach decides to accept him back even after he forcibly rapes her is absurd. Both characters were in need of some major psychological counseling and not each other. The fact that the film for the majority of its runtime plays like an anti-love story only to end up throwing in a clichéd wrap-up like all the other formulaic romances makes it a sell-out and a waste of time for the viewer looking for something intelligent and different only to find out that it really isn’t.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Rollover (1981)

rollover 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: What’s in account 21214?

Hubbell Smith (Kris Kristofferson) is the newly appointed president of Borough National a bank that is in desperate need of money. He meets Lee Winters (Jane Fonda) the recent widow of the former chairman of Winterchem Enterprises who is looking to obtain a loan in order to purchase a Spanish processing plant. Hubbell broker’s the $500 million deal with some Arab investors and uses the finder’s fee portion to keep his bank solvent, but suspicions are raised when the money goes into a secret account named 21214 that no one knows anything about and can’t access. When Hubbell does some investigating he finds troubling answers that could lead to economic world collapse.

Director Alan J. Pakula approaches this thing like it is another Klute using not only the same star as that one, but similar type of music. Some of the camera work is dazzling and artsy, but I wondered if this was done to help enhance the script, or simply camouflage all of its holes. The story itself is too talky with a heavy reliance of financial business dealings that could become confusing for the average viewer. The two main characters are rather generic and their passionate making-out is tedious instead of sexy. The action is minimal, which includes a scene where Fonda gets trapped in a limo that is driven by a bad guy that had the potential for being exciting, but unfortunately gets underplayed.

Kristofferson with his Texas drawl is an awfully odd casting choice for a hot shot Wall Street businessman. He grows on you as the movie progresses particularly with the way he remains cool and detached even as his business dealings go horribly awry, but I still felt there were a hundred other actors that would have been better suited for the role.

Fonda is excellent and in many ways badly outplays her costar. Her character though doesn’t make a lot of sense as she is supposedly this famous and highly respected actress, much like Fonda herself and yet wants to be chairwoman of this chemical company instead of just selling her share of the stock after the death of husband and go back to acting, which to me would seem a lot more fun.

In an effort to keep the plot moving the film takes a few liberties with the plausibility. One of the major ones is when Hubbell wants to find out about the secret account and does so by breaking into the office of his superior where he finds in his desk drawer a notebook that lists the computer passcode, which seemed too convenient. In reality I would think a programmer would have to be hired in order to hack the system, which would have taken longer to play out, but also if done right heighten the tension as well as the believability.

Spoiler Warning!!

The film’s biggest transgression is the ending itself, which has the Arabs pulling the money out of the secret fund, which causes mass worldwide economic turmoil and chaos. Not only does this seem to create a whole new movie, but it also minimizes the two main characters and everything that we watched them do for the past two hours. A much better ending would have had the characters come up with some way to avert the collapse instead of the gloomy pessimistic way that it does take, which seems overblown and hard to believe.

End of Spoiler Warning!

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video