‘A Star Is Born’ Review: A Star IS Born, Indeed

There’s a reason why the film, A Star Is Born, is remade every 20-30 years or so. This is a timeless tale that is relevant, no matter when it’s told. Fredrick March and Janet Gaynor told the story in 1937, and Judy Garland and James Mason told it in 1954. Perhaps the most popular version was in 1976, with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand playing the mentor and his talented protege as their careers head in different directions. But now, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in the latest telling of A Star Is Born, and the film also serves as Cooper’s directorial debut.

A Star Is Born is the story of Jackson Maine (Cooper) a rock star with an alcohol and drug problem, who self medicates before every show and is now, in the twilight of his career, just floating through the nightly chaos that is a professional rock ‘n roll gig. One night after a set, and in need of more alcohol, he stumbles into a bar and discovers Ally (Gaga), who is performing at a drag show. Maine and Ally spend the night together, bar hopping and talking music, and he quickly realizes that she is major talent, even though her face may not be star material. It doesn’t matter to Jackson and he pushes Ally to work with him, falling in love with her along the way and their relationship develops as her career takes off.

A Star is Born Review

Jackson is a character with major flaws. He has issues with his dead dad — also an alcoholic — and his older brother (Sam Elliot). He’s also losing his hearing, which makes being a rock star difficult. Ally still lives at home with her father (Andrew Dice Clay), making ends meet by working as a server and singing in clubs when she can. She’s given up on her dreams of being a star, until that fateful night she meets Jackson.

Much like the previous versions of A Star Is Born, the two star crossed lovers’ careers begin to trade positions, as Jackson self-medicates himself into isolation, and Ally, turned from a singer/songwriter into a garish pop princess, shoots to superstardom.

Much has been written about pop music legend Lady Gaga being cast in the role of Ally, who becomes the protege and lover to Cooper’s Jackson Maine. She begins A Star Is Born dressed down, letting her natural beauty take center stage over her normally outlandish outfits and hairstyles. And through the course of her arc, she develops into a Lady Gaga-like persona, on purpose, I’m sure. Gaga was inspired casting and the project could serve as her transition into feature film acting (Gaga has starred in multiple seasons of TV’s American Horror Story), and while her performance is powerful and near perfect, she is outshined. And it’s very rare that Lady Gaga is ever outshined.

A Star is Born Review

No, the true star being born here is Bradley Cooper as a filmmaker. He cowrote the film with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, and he even wrote and performed the original songs from the film. Gaga also contributed to the soundtrack. Cooper’s many hats here do not detract from the level of filmmaking he is exhibiting in A Star Is Born. Much like Kevin Costner in 1990 with Dances With Wolves, Cooper’s debut is a powerful, beautifully executed gut punch of a film that serves as the perfect launching point for a second career as a director. Cooper excels in getting story from the unlikeliest of places. From frenetic shots at the rock shows, to the extreme close ups of the quiet conversations between Ally and Jackson, his framing of shots and blocking, and the use of light and sound, all point to a seasoned filmmaker and not an actor trying to box outside his weight class.

Cooper is the true star that is born here, and while Gaga and the cast — including Andrew Dice Clay, who absolutely delivers as Ally’s father — are all part of this wonderful melange, the specter of Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut hangs over the production and he proves that this is something he should be doing more of. And the soundtrack, full of songs written and performed by Cooper and Gaga, is absolutely stunning. These are songs I’ve been humming all week, and that speaks volumes for their level of quality.

A Star Is Born might very well be the best film I’ve seen in 2018, so far. It hits all the right notes (pun intended) and the performances all carry the film to great heights. And Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is the story here, and he delivers in every way. A star is born, indeed.

A Star Is Born is rated R and is in theaters on October 5.

A Star is Born Review
out of 5

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