Every version of ‘A Star Is Born’


“A Star Is Born” is born again.

Movies that share the same name usually come from a franchise, but the “A Star Is Born” movies – including the new Oscar-ready musical fable starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – aren’t sequels or even conventional remakes. They’re more romantic revivals that happen every couple of decades when filmmakers and actors take the same template and narrative threads but put their own special sauce on them.

The central conceit is always an alcoholic male artist on a career downswing who helps to raise (and also hurt) the profile of an up-and-coming starlet, though there are other hallmarks: “Star Wars” movies have lightsaber battles; “A Star Is Born” has a guy telling a girl, “I just want to take another look at you.” The rest is what defines each in the canon of filmmaking.

The famous lead singer of a rock band, John Norman Howard (Kristofferson) meets aspiring chanteuse Esther Hoffman (Streisand) at a bar where Howard gets into a fistfight with a fan. She saves his bacon, they go out for breakfast and he invites her to a show where he drives a motorbike off stage. Somehow after all that, Esther sticks around and, with his help, she becomes a huge disco-era pop star while he struggles to balance her fame with his fading.

The acting and songs are truly cornball (the Oscar-winning ballad “Evergreen” is its lasting cultural achievement), Kristofferson’s Howard is a total jerk, and often the movie just turns randomly into a Streisand concert. This one’s only for Babs completists.