' ' Cinema Romantico: A Star Is Born, outtake

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Star Is Born, outtake

“Almost Famous.” You know the scene. Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), guitarist for Stillwater, has walked out on his band, more or less, fled to a house party with some “real Topeka people” in the company of fledgling Rolling Stone scribe William Miller (Patrick Fugit). Things happen. Beers are drunk. Pills are popped. Russell winds up on a roof screaming about being a golden god. He jumps into a pool. He tells William the band is over, but it isn’t. The band’s bus shows up and the manager talks him onto it. Things are a little rough at first, a little quiet, but then Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” comes on. One by one, like one of those sports scenes where one guy claps and then another guy claps and then they all start clapping, etc., everyone begins singing along. All the bad stuff washes away. Music heals all wounds.


Late in the recently released version of “A Star Is Born” country-western superstar Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) finds himself in a tailspin brought on by jealousy, a changing world, and, most of all, alcoholism. His diminishing status is made clear at the Grammy Awards where his part on a trio of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” is nixed, reducing it to a duet, and stranding him as a sideman, playing guitar only. As such, he has taken to the drink. And when he takes the stage to perform, he is so inebriated that he drops his pick and slowly, pitifully, bends over to pick it up. For a second, you’d swear he’ll fall right over. He doesn’t, thankfully, yet after a singing-only intro, when the spotlight is thrust on him, again, for a second, you’d swear he will forget or be unable to play. He comes through, barely, and blasts into the familiar riff. The guitar, however, is ear-splitting, like you’re standing right in front of the amp, nearly bowling you over. And Cooper, the director, sets the shot from below, making it seem as if this drunken dude is teetering on the edge of cliff, about to go right over. A few seconds later, the same sort of thing happens again, and again he comes through, this time really laying into the riff, seasoning it without going overboard like Marty McFly on “Johnny B. Goode.”

And now, for a second, you think Jackson’ll right the ship; you think he’ll tear through this song and a smile will erupt to instantly transform him from sloshed to sober; you think he’ll find that thing he’s been looking for. Instead, right as all that flashes through your mind, Cooper cuts to the next scene, jarring you right out of your prospective fantasy. Music does not heal all wounds.

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