By Stephen Shea
A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake of the classic tale of a young ingenue being taken in by an older, weathered performer. As she rises he falls. This time around the film is directed by Bradley Cooper who also stars with Lady Gaga as Jackson Maine and Ally respectively.
Bradley Cooper does something spectacular here in creating a weepy love story that tugs on the heart strings while also managing to not feel melodramatic or manipulative. Jackson and Ally’s love story feels natural and subtle. This is a credit to the dynamite chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. I was worried going in that I would not be able to separate myself from the fact that I was watching one of my favorite musical artists ever, but Gaga disappears into the role. It is kind of ironic though as the role essentially follows her rise to stardom having to put on a character. Lady Gaga surprised even a die-hard fan like me here. I was prepared to like her performance, but I was blown away by her. She goes to places that I wouldn’t have thought she could. I would not be shocked if she wins the Oscar for Best Actress this year. But without Cooper’s Jackson Maine the movie would fall apart. Cooper never falls into the trap of glamorizing himself as other actor/directors do when they direct themselves. He allows for other actors in the film to shine while also being able to depict himself in an “ugly” light. Cooper portrays Jackson’s crippling alcoholism beautifully, depicting stunning moments that ring true to what it is like to confront one’s issues with substance abuse. Supporting performances from the likes of Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliot and Andrew Dice Clay impress as well as the performances of Willam and Shangela of Rupaul’s Drag Race fame.
One of the best parts of the movie is how Bradley Cooper is able to hold on important moments. He stays with early moments of Ally and Jackson getting to know each other. He stays with them as they get to know each other after he meets her in a bar. There are some gorgeous shots here that are perfectly staged with backgrounds that either express the character’s feelings about that moment or foreshadow the feelings of a character. The sound design here is impeccable. Maybe it’s just because I saw it in a special fan screening in a Dolby Digital theater but the scenes during concerts convey just how loud it might be to be on stage in front of screaming fans. Also every time Ally gets the confidence up to sing in early parts of the film she is jaw dropping.
A Star is Born is quite possibly the best adaptation of the classic story of one woman’s rise and a man’s demise set against their love story. It is an excellent film that lives up to it’s name for Cooper as a director and Lady Gaga as an actress. This is a must see that lives up to the hype.