‘A Star Is Born’: The 19th Century Edition

The Greatest Showman’s Amazingly Insane Diva Moment

A Star Is Born will be the movie of the year. From the moment the project got announced, I wished for it to be a disaster, partly out of envy, mostly because I hated Silver Linings Playbook. But none of my wishes have come true. There will be an inevitable onslaught of praise, not just from critics, but from every single person I meet. For the rest of my life, “Bradley Cooper: Genius” and “Lady Gaga: Oscar Winner” will be things that I’ll have to read.

Don’t you people see? “If you just took off that drag makeup, you’d be beautiful and authentic” is nothing but a more woke version of “you’d be so pretty without your glasses”! No, of course you don’t see. I’m just a cranky old man justifiably shouting into a hurricane.

The “tortured genius helps young woman find herself” is a very male fantasy. I know this, because I’m a man. It’s a cliché that artsy types live every day.

If you want to see a really weird take on this phenomenon, then I recommend checking out The Greatest Showman, now streaming on HBO for theater dorks to watch on Friday nights. Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum as a dancing idiot, full of optimism, who’s committed to multicultural identity politics. At one point, he and his number-two, Zac Efron, go to England for some reason and meet Jenny Lind, The Swedish Songbird, played with incredible magnetism by Rebecca Ferguson, who realizes her lines are ridiculous but delivers them anyway.

Barnum kisses Jenny Lind’s ass and persuades her to come to America so she can share her gift with the uneducated hordes. Somehow, he does this without actually hearing her sing. So when she makes her debut, he has no idea whether she’ll be good or not, even though she’s the world’s greatest singer.

Lind takes the stage, wearing a white satin jacket and frilled dress wide enough at the base to hide two General Tom Thumbs. But rather than sing something from, say, Puccini, she busts out a beyond-belief four-alarm American Idol finals power ballad.

 

Jackman stares at her like his boner has a smile on it, as though he discovered this majestic bird in the wilds of Europe. You see, he “set off a dream” in her. As the song builds to an insane crescendo, suddenly Jackman gasps like he has to change his underwear. He’s never seen anything like it, not even on The VoiceAnd I use that reference deliberately, because though Ferguson is miming the living hell out of the number, it’s actually being sung by former Voice contestant Loren Allred. Here’s Allred doing a killer live version of the song in front of a bunch of people who are, for some reason, sitting in vintage cars.

 

Dang, those are some pipes. “Never Enough” is one of the cheesiest and most jaw-dropping musical numbers in movie history, the absolute apogee of the “discovered female star” solo turn. It’s especially great because the script around it is so clumsy, stupid, and meaningless. The woman is already a bigger star than the man can ever be, but he’s such a blundering oaf that he doesn’t understand that fact. I’ll take unintentional irony over deep meaning any day.

And then, tomorrow, Lady Gaga steals the discovered diva spotlight forever. Ah, what the hell, here she is in all her pop glory, before Rocket Raccoon turned her into a movie star by taking off her makeup.

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of ten semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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