Directed by Bradley Cooper
Written by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters
Oscar season, I think, is officially upon us with the release of A Star Is Born, a remake from first time director Bradley Cooper. It still feels weird having seen Cooper’s career trajectory. We were introduced to him as the bro-dude in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover and as a sidekick to Jennifer Garner in Alias until he became too famous for TV, and now he is an established Hollywood star who is helming a project with a ton of Oscar buzz around it. Wild. A Star Is Born is a tale as old as time, having been a Hollywood staple through the eras, and with this new rendition, Cooper has teamed with the extremely talented Lady Gaga to forge a new chapter in the story. It’s a remarkable combination which soars with its soundtrack and the two lead performances.
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a musical superstar. He shreds on the guitar and sings country blues inspired rock music to massive arenas, but he’s a troubled man. One night after a show, he’s looking for a bar for another drink after his bottle runs dry. Ending up at a drag bar, he discovers Ally (Lady Gaga), a singer-songwriter who hasn’t found anywhere else to perform. Taken by Ally, Jackson brings her on tour with him where he discovers she has what it takes to get her message out to the world. The two collaborate and fall in love while Ally’s fame begins to grow. She soon finds herself signed to a label, recording an album, performing on SNL, leaving Jackson back to the bottle where he continues to struggle with his much older brother (Sam Elliott) and the idea that their father, a drunk himself, scarred Jack for life.
I think I’ll start by saying there are way more positives in this film than there are negatives, but while this is a soaring, crowd-pleasing accomplishment, it’s not without its flaws. Of no fault of its own, this is a remake, and as such it follows the basic story of the previous 3 renditions of the film, and as such there is not a lot of new, originality throughout the film. Again, no fault of its own, and I think Cooper and company do a tremendous job of overcoming this by crafting a beautiful, emotional film. I also struggled slightly with the two lead characters in understanding their back stories and motivations. The film doesn’t completely dive off the deep end, as it were, but I consistently found myself wanting to understand them more than I was being given. This is in some ways a compliment for crafting interesting, entertaining, and emotionally deep characters. I just wish they colored them in a little more, because otherwise I left with plenty of questions as to why they did certain things.
But enough with the bad, because I genuinely really liked this movie and would recommend it almost across the board to anyone who likes movies. Lady Gaga is a goddamn star! She steals the show here from not only her musical talent, which is apparent from her successful musical career, but also her performance as Ally. Really, I qualmed about the character depth a little in the previous paragraph, but it’s both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper who bring so much to these roles that it covers up the lack of development somewhat and you can become fully immersed in their journey and truly care about their destination. With this in mind, Cooper the director really utilizes that earned emotion in some stirring edits and shots which bring that emotion out even further. It’s done in such a way that its not manipulative, as it could have been, but rather an extension of the wonderful emotion on display in these performances.
But the star of the show is really in the music, which is the backbone to any modern musical like this. All of the songs are interesting and anywhere from good to great, including the readymade hit “Shallow”, which has been playing on my phone since I got out of the movie, mostly because I can’t listen to the rest of the soundtrack as of this writing. I am sure I will wear the entire soundtrack out because there are a lot of great tunes on the film. Cooper really does a great job, along with his cinematographer Matthew Libatique in capturing the on stage performances like an enhanced concert film. I was on the edge of my seat for every song. There is no doubt in my mind that this movie will be a big hit. It’s a definite crowd pleaser that nails it in the execution.