A Star is Born (2018)

Release: Friday, October 5, 2018

→Theater

Written by: Eric Roth; Bradley Cooper; Will Fetters

Directed by: Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper has been a star for some time, but alongside the inimitable pop star Lady Gaga he seems to burn even brighter. Legitimately honing another craft within the framework of one of his best acting showcases to date, Cooper, aided by a beard, a guitar and a mic, manages to hit all the right notes, on both ends of the camera.

With A Star is Born, the 43-year-old isn’t exactly stepping out on a limb when it comes to finding a subject for his directing début. Famously A Star is Born tells of two careers in showbiz trending in different directions — one star rising as the other fades. The luminous Judy Garland beat Lady Gaga to the role by more than half a century (that film, although about a woman yearning to become a Hollywood starlet rather than a world-touring singer/songwriter, is the template I’m told this one adheres closest to) while Cooper shares a similar arc with the likes of Fredric March, James Mason and Kris Kristofferson in years past. So yes, the story Cooper is telling has already been told several times before, but that doesn’t mean his version has nothing to offer. The craftsmanship and character work make the movie worth savoring. That Gaga and Cooper make quality music together is the cherry.

In the 2018 rendition Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a big time performer who sold out stadiums in his prime and whose tired eyes and gravelly, baritone voice have seen and sung it all. Years of demanding tour schedules have taken their toll on him physically and mentally. Drugs and alcohol have become better roadies to him than his older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott). Each successive gig finds Jackson deeper and deeper into a bottle, until one night there is no more and he’s compelled to scout local dives to quench his thirst. As fate would have it, he stumbles into the same drag bar Ally (Gaga) spends much of her free time singing and dreaming of a different life. Worlds collide when Jackson is permitted a meet-and-greet. A deep connection is formed and instantly.

Nowhere is the evolution of a classical romance more apparent than in Cooper’s casting of Gaga as the meteorically rising Ally, who has been told ten times too many how people like how she sounds but not the way she looks. Mother Monster, as her fans call her, is of course the embodiment of a modern culture and a modern industry, a chameleonic performer whose flashy stage presence often obscures reality. Not that all the colorful accoutrement tell an untruth, but there is certainly a sense of dressing down, or a veil being lifted both in terms of wardrobe and in her performance as she confesses her insecurities to a sympathetic stranger. And it isn’t just in this first intimate moment, some of her own numbers at the piano (“Always Remember Us This Way”) feel like revelations in their own right.

The film features an assortment of impactful performances, evidenced by smaller but still significant supporting turns from the likes of Dave Chapelle as Noodles, an old drinking buddy who has cleaned himself up but still finds himself having to help a spiraling Jack out of the gutter, and Andrew “The Dice Man!” Clay as Ally’s father who once imagined himself a knock-off Sinatra. Still does. But none hog the gravitas all to themselves like the mustachioed Elliot as Bobby who is helpless, like Ally, to do anything about the demons that continue to plague his younger brother.

Quite honestly Elliot deserves an entire paragraph dedicated just to him. He is that good here and that voice of his always deserves more press. But this isn’t his show. This is unequivocally Cooper and Gaga’s time. A Star is Born dramatizes aspects of the entertainment industry, namely the tug-of-war between artists and their vision and managers/producers who have their own agendas, as well as the stresses of not simply finding success but trying to make it last. More fundamentally though this is a love saga and the enduring power of love. If there is any justice, this movie too shall endure.

Recommendation: A Star is Born is given a modern facelift with the innately likable Bradley Cooper and a revelatory Lady Gaga, and the results are surprisingly powerful. Beyond the professional fakery, the music is genuinely good. Who knew Rocket the Raccoon had such pipes? 

Rated: R

Running Time: 135 mins.

Quoted: “Can I touch your nose?”

Song played most frequently during the writing of this review

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “A Star is Born (2018)

  1. Pingback: Month in Review: October ’18 | Thomas J

  2. This movie wrecked me…had no idea what I was getting myself into. Such spectacular performances. I was blown away by Elliot’s small yet such powerful performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got an Oscar nod despite such short time on screen.

    • Its a testament to the power of the performances that such a familiar story arc still can be so affecting. I loved the chemistry the actors shared together, it was everything. Well, that and the music of course. Gaga I knew would be good, but Cooper really hit it out of the park.

  3. I totally wasn’t expecting a potentially career-best performance from Cooper. I echo others’ thoughts. I definitely could see Maine being a real-life megastar. This was really engrossing, with the only issue I have with it is some of the editing and transitions, feel that Cooper shows a little of his novice here with a few scenes not really tying to each other.

    Certain awards contender for I’d say all major categories, and let’s just shut it down. for one category: No f*****g way another movie wins for Best Original Song.

    • I’d be perfectly happy with A Star is Born walking away with several wins. ‘Shallow’ the obvious contender, but I was a real fan of Cooper’s ‘Maybe It’s Time’ and the opening number ‘Black Eyes’ really took me by surprise. That was a barn burner.

    • Hey man! Great to hear from you. I agree, the way Bradley Cooper pulled all the familiar pieces together really worked. The movie was heartfelt and soulful. I loved it.

    • Ah very good, hope you enjoy it. I sure did. I was surprised by the quality of Cooper’s singing and Gaga’s acting. That helped me overlook the familiarity of the template Cooper goes with here as director.

  4. Oh I didn’t really expect much from this (admittedly, it only sprung up on my radar after Natasha sent me the song because she enjoyed it so much). Apparently it is worth a look see at some point.

    • For fans of romantic drama done right, Bradley Cooper’s version is a must. It has a really classic feel to it, and I loved the music they made together. Its a good one. Check it out!

  5. This really is not my sort of thing, but oddly I am really looking forward to it. I hope to be as impressed by Cooper as you, cos I’ve never been a huge fan, though admittedly I haven’t seen him in many films.

    I don’t know much about Lady Gaga other than she is some sort of pop star, but it is really cool to hear that she nails the role. I’m really looking forward to seeing it, though down here the premiere of it is called ‘Lady’s Night’ ha! I’d feel like a real weirdo going to that screening by myself! I’m looking forward to this one opening proper down here.

    • Yeah, honestly not usually my bag either but Cooper I really like and the way he pulls all the familiar pieces together here makes A Star is Born a lovingly crafted ode to old cinema and music all at once. I really went for it.

  6. Fine review! This thing continues to sky-rocket. I think it is going to hold audiences for a pretty long while at the theater. There is so much enthusiasm for it. And as you said, who knew Rocket could sing. And I mean REALLY sing. I think my wife’s words were “I would by a solo album just to listen to that voice.”

    • Cooper was really surprising. His singing voice was a revelation while Gaga’s acting was another.

      The movie may have felt familiar but this is a good example of execution being everything. Plus those tunes really are solid. Must have looped a couple of them several times while writing this.

  7. I’ve read that Sam will probably, well, the whole film since all subsequent 3 versions were Oscar-nominated–get a supporting actor nod. You didn’t think Chapelle and the drag queens weren’t a political gesture to fill a quota?

Comments are closed.