Star Is Born, A (2018)

Review #1,620

Director:  Bradley Cooper
Cast:   Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
Plot:  A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Genre:  Drama / Romance / Music
Awards:  Won Smithers Foundation Award (Venice); Nom. for People's Choice Award (Toronto)
Runtime:  135 mins
Rating:  M18 (passed clean) for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse
Distributor:  Warner Bros

“Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.”

A Star Is Born does go through the motions of a remake, and some might find it a tad longer than it should have been, but it is generally a decent film, full of oomph and energy when scenes revolve around high-octane music performances come to play, though it also works to a fair degree during some of its quieter moments.  A modern retelling of the famous 1937 Classical Hollywood property (that is no stranger to Hollywood remakes over the decades—though it is itself a loose remake of 1932’s What Price Hollywood?), A Star Is Born is also proudly Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut.  

One could also see that it is a passion-cum-collaborative project, an artistic commingling of Cooper’s musical ambition and his co-star Lady Gaga’s performative charisma.  Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a popular singer-guitarist who meets Ally (Lady Gaga) one night in a bar and becomes struck by her beauty and breathtaking vocal talents.  As Jackson helps Ally to find a footing in the music industry, he is also fighting a personal battle with alcoholism, which threatens to ruin his career.  

A romance-drama about music, passion and special kinship, A Star Is Born is mostly propelled by the wonderful chemistry between the two leads, both of whom might land Oscar nominations.  A look at Cooper’s tired eyes, and one could tell that his character is a jaded man on the path of self-destruction.  In contrast, Lady Gaga’s unique appeal (not to mention her conspicuous nose, which is a running gag in the movie) makes us root for her character to be successful… to seize the moment as it were.  

She shines most gloriously when she is ‘performing’ songs, her naturalism very much making Ally a fully-fleshed person.  With Matthew Libatique (Darren Aronofsky’s long-time cinematographer) behind the camera, Cooper has got the technical side of things pretty much covered, and one could see Libatique’s trademark restless camerawork at its best during the musical interludes.  Sound mixing plays a huge part in Cooper’s film, with obvious emphasis on the ‘soundstage’ quality of the songs performed—and they were impressively sung live (not lip-synced) by the lead duo.  

A Star Is Born is highly likely to be in awards conversation over the next few months, and it won’t be at all surprising if it nabs Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Leading Actress and Actor, and Original Song (“Shallow” maybe?), and possibly Cinematography and Sound Mixing.  Cooper’s undated next directorial project, a biopic about Leonard Bernstein, continues his love affair with screen portrayals of musicians, and is surely eagerly-anticipated. 

Verdict:  The movie is decent, but the performances by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are the real deal.





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