A Star Is Born Again
"A Star Is Born Again" is the 13th episode from The Simpsons' fourteenth season, which first aired on March 2, 2003. The episode owes much of its plot to Notting Hill (1999). While that film is about an actress (Julia Roberts) finding happiness with the owner of an independent bookstore, the Simpsons episode features Hollywood movie star Sara Sloane (Marisa Tomei) falling for Ned Flanders after visiting the Leftorium. The episode title is a reference to being born again, meaning a person who has converted to a personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
This is the only Simpsons episode in which the same person has been accredited with two different names, where James L. Brooks is credited as the Executive Producer and Executive Creative Consultant, and again as Jim Brooks as a Special Guest Voice.
During the annual Jellyfish Festival, which welcomes back the Stinging Red Jellyfish to the shores of Springfield, Ned Flanders becomes depressed because he is alone. The other adults have partners with whom to spend a romantic evening at the Jellyfish Cotillion, and this is Ned's first festival without his wife Maude.
Ned returns to the Leftorium to work on his taxes and take his mind off things. There he meets a beautiful woman (voiced by Marisa Tomei), who is after a pair of left-handed eyelash curlers. After chatting with Ned she asks him out on a date. After she leaves Ned notices a movie poster with the woman's face on it: she is movie star, Sara Sloane (who once dated Rainier Wolfcastle but broke up with him because of the way he spoke).
Sara and Ned hit it off, with Sara loving Ned's simple, quaint lifestyle and honesty. They go on several dates and encounter some problems, especially from tabloid reporters following them. Also, Sara is more uninhibited than Ned, causing some tension.
When her movie wraps, Sara asks Ned to return to Hollywood with her. Ned has a horrible dream about the evils of Hollywood in a sequence that includes a cameo by series producer James L. Brooks, and also the "Hollywood" sign reading "Hollyweird", and refuses. Sara therefore tries staying in Springfield, to be with Ned. She slowly starts settling in with the locals, joining Marge's book club (where author Helen Fielding makes a brief appearance) and going shopping with Ned.
At a concert, to which Sara wears a low-cut dress, Sara tells Ned she wants to have sex with him. Ned eventually relents, but insists on marriage if they are to continue a sexual relationship. Sara is unwilling to get married, and they break up and she returns to Hollywood. She gets a quickie marriage and divorce to Bob Balaban. Ned finds that he is now more attractive to women because of his famous relationship. Homer and Marge congratulate him, then try to avoid Helen Fielding as she is being chased by policemen.
- This episode is largely a parody of the film Notting Hill (1999).
- A billboard depicting Los Angeles personality Angelyne can be seen during Ned Flanders' Hollywood dream sequence.
- When Helen Fielding runs around being chased by bobbies and a man in a gorilla suit following the book club meeting and the end of the episode, it is an homage to the British sketch comedy The Benny Hill Show. The music featured in the sequence is "Yakety Sax", the music used in that series.
- Debussy's "Arabesque No. 1" and "Clair de Lune" were used as the background music for several scenes.
- Ned Flanders saying "This show is turning into 'SpongeBob NoPants'" is a reference to the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants.
- After Sara asks Ned out on their first date (when she is leaving the Leftorium), Ned sings a version of America's "A Horse with No Name" referring to the date.
- "16 great 'Simpsons' guest stars". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
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- "A Star Is Born Again" at The Simpsons.com
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- "A Star Is Born Again" at TV.com