“A Star is Born” Movie Review

Apparently, love in relationships is extremely hard to hold onto once one or both partners in a relationship become famous. Not necessarily impossible, just really difficult to keep up with. That’s at least one of the messages that could be pulled from this film. This romantic musical drama premiered out of competition at the 75th Venice Film Festival. Following screenings at a number of other fall festivals, including TIFF, it was released in theaters worldwide on October 5th, 2018. It has thus far grossed over $332 million at the global box office against a $37 million budget, aided by a wash of critical acclaim and enormous Oscar buzz. Marking the directorial debut of actor Bradley Cooper, who also co-writes and produces, this is the 4th overall remake of the film of the same name from 1937, and the 3rd one by Hollywood. Clint Eastwood was originally attached to direct with Beyoncé in mind to star back in 2011, but it fell through due to her pregnancy. Despite numerous warnings from his fellow peers, Bradley Cooper decided he’d make it for Warner Bros., attending various music festivals to find the right voice and genre to play. Cooper also stars as Jackson Maine, a hard-drinking country rock musician who’s beginning to fall on bad times. While out for a drink one night, he discovers Ally Campana, played by Lady Gaga, a young down-on-her-luck singer with an amazing voice. He immediately helps catapult her to stardom, but their newfound love is greatly tested as her career soars while his wanes. This film has been getting seriously hyped up over the last few months, with some even proclaiming it as this year’s La La Land– for better or for worse. I watched the 1976 version of A Star is Born earlier this year, just in order to get myself familiar with the material. It was really not good at all, mainly existing just to stroke Barbara Streisand’s ego while ignoring all the other essential elements. I was very interested to see this admittedly ripe story told in a modern context, as well as how Bradley Cooper could manage it as a first-time filmmaker. While your own reactions may vary, I believe that this rendition of A Star is Born indeed lives up to all of that awards hype. You can see influences that Cooper takes from other filmmakers he’s worked with over the years at Warner Bros. Clint Eastwood and Todd Phillips (Who also serves as producer) immediately come to mind as cinematic mentors. And yet still, he’s able to keep it his own by focusing on both the male and female singers, rather than one or the other. Because of this choice, the events that occur throughout, particularly in the back half of the film, are even more devastating. They’re treated as equals in the story, meaning their talent and fortune is well-earned, but are virtually doomed if they remain together. Pulling quadruple duty, Bradley Cooper delivers quite possibly his best performance to date as Jackson Maine. Beneath the tough beard and deep voice is a fundamentally decent guy who is constantly in danger of his own self-destructive behavior. His singing voice and guitar playing skills are surprisingly well-fit for him, as it becomes clear that this guy is extremely talented yet unstable. Opposite him, as you’ve most definitely heard, Stefanie Germotta A.K.A. Lady Gaga is an absolute revelation as Ally Campana. I won’t hesitate to admit that it took me a few years to truly get on board with her as a musician and here, under stellar direction, she proves just as capable an actress. With little makeup, brown hair, and a lot of pent-up frustration at the music industry, she perfectly and convincingly pulls off an every-girl trying to fulfill her dreams. And while Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle do fantastic dramatic work as Ally’s father and a retired musician, respectively, it’s Sam Elliott’s turn as Jackson’s older brother Bobby. It’s the best work I’ve seen from him, injecting a genuine sadness and concern for his volatile sibling even as he drunkenly stumbles on concert stages. I was amazed by how he stole scenes from the two leads, especially in a heartbreaking exchange late in the film. His screen presence leaves a strong impact, and may result in an Academy Award nomination come January. Meanwhile, I’m so impressed with how self-assured and in-control Cooper is as a director, as the technical aspects for A Star is Born scream authenticity. With Matthew Libatique as the cinematographer, the different people are given greater characterization. For example, shots primarily showing Jackson are shaky but discernible, representing his dangerous lifestyle, and Ally is seen through static wides and close-ups, as if her career is in more control than her lover’s. Jay Cassidy is able to balance these two perspectives well, again, making them equals in the story. He also cuts beautifully during performances between backstage, up close at the mic, or in the crowd. Using locations such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the real Saturday Night Live stage as backdrops, it often feels like we’re watching a real-life concert with these artists unfold. Cooper and Gaga team up with Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) to write original songs for the much talked-about soundtrack. They’re all great and memorable tunes, ranging in genres from country-rock to pop. Obviously, everyone at this point knows the single “Shallow,” a bittersweet anthem that will most likely win Best Original Song. The two tracks that standout the most to me, however, are the ballads “Always Remember Us This Way” and “I’ll Never Love Again.” Featuring Lady Gaga’s hauntingly beautiful voice and gradually escalating instrumentation, each were both powerful and catchy and kept me tapping my foot in the theater. What’s more, all of the tracks in the film were recorded live, apparently a request by Lady Gaga. In many ways, that makes it all the more remarkable as we can hear both their raw voices and the audience’s reactions. I’ll be honest, when I first walked out of the theater, I did like it but felt it had been way overhyped by critics and audiences. But in the time since then, the story has marinated more on me, and I have been unable to shake either the new songs or its profound emotional impact. Its examination of the cost of fame and artistry really hit close to home, especially as it culminates in the finale. A Star is Born is a heartbreaking, tender, and authentic crowdpleaser with some unexpected emotional punch. Bradley Cooper not only delivers an incredible performance, but also proves himself a confident filmmaker with a bright future ahead. Not only that, but it’s the jaw-dropping performances by Lady Gaga and Sam Elliot that make this a home run. If this is what we can expect from major Hollywood players during awards season this year, then we’re all in for a major treat.

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1 thought on ““A Star is Born” Movie Review

  1. Pingback: Retrospective: The 20 Best Films of 2018 | Geek's Landing

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