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Film Review – A Star is Born (2018)

A Star is Born

We as a collective always complain that there are too many remakes and reboots. In recent years, the cynical feel of studios dredging up any property with some amount of clout has reached an all-time high. Yet with A Star is Born — the fourth iteration of the classic story — we have one of the few worthy remakes of recent memory, showing that a classic story can be repurposed into something solid with the proper talent involved.

The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Directed By: Bradley Cooper

Written By: Will Fetters, Eric Roth, and Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Rafi Gavron, and Anthony Ramos

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is one the most popular musicians today, performing all over the country to sold-out crowds. However, his growing tinnitus, heavy drinking, and drug use continue to act as looming issues over his fame and reputation.

But one fateful night, Jackson runs into Ally (Gaga) as she’s singing at a bar, and he’s instantly entranced by her talents and the way she carries herself. He quickly learns of her fears and failures as an artist thereafter.

Jackson takes Ally on tour with him throughout the country, and now Ally is gaining recognition as an artist herself. But with their inherit problems, they may not be able to handle their changes in fame.

Background

Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born is the fourth incarnation of this timeless story. The first came in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Later, in 1954, the story got a facelift with Judy Garland and James Mason with many calling Judy Garland’s performance in the film some of her finest work in her entire, storied career.

Then there was the 1976 version featuring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson which isn’t exactly what you’d call a “crowning achievement in film.”

So now, over 40 years later, we have the fourth A Star is Born. Only this one feels a little different — at least in its general construction. We have Bradley Cooper making his directorial debut with Lady Gaga finally making her big break in film (she was previously awarded for her work in American Horror Story, but this is clearly her biggest acting turn yet). There’s a fascination of the unknown with this iteration of the property. What exactly could Sack Lodge from Wedding Crashers and a woman who wore raw beef to an awards show put together?

a star is born

image via Time

A Star is Born‘s Use of Sound is Incredible

It’s a pretty obvious to say that the music in A Star is Born great. Anything with Lady Gaga will be pretty beautiful. But from the opening scene, you know that you’re in for a cinematic treat as Bradley Cooper’s screeching guitar envelopes you. It may seem trivial, but A Star is Born uses sound with amazing attention to detail. Whether it’s Cooper’s Jackson Maine’s hearing problems or the raw, unfiltered, and metallic grit to the concert footage, this movie is a technical treat.

A Star is Born has some of the best concert footage you’ll see in a movie. The music isn’t altered to sound perfect like with many other movies. It’s professional, but there’s a tangible piece to it that feels like a real performance. At times, you might need to cover your ears with how loud the music gets, yet there’s a piece of it that helps you identify with Jackson Maine. Really good stuff from a first-time director!

If you pay close attention to all the performances, you’ll notice a strong attention to detail that makes every concert palpable. They all have little stories to tell within them.

a star is born

image via Bustle

Bradley Cooper is the True Star Here

And that’s precisely why Bradley Cooper has effectively made himself one of the better talents in all of Hollywood with A Star is Born. If you aren’t familiar with Cooper’s path to directing this movie, he made a concerted effort to direct his first movie at age 43. Why, you ask? Look no further then Cooper’s idol: Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood directed his first movie at age 43 (Play Misty for Me). Cooper even made his decision to direct his first movie after talking with Eastwood on the set of American Sniper back in 2014. Cooper wants to become Eastwood for the modern-age, which fits very well considering his macho-man exterior that is noticeable in just about every single one of his roles.

Eastwood’s influence on Cooper is undeniable in his filming techniques, especially with his extensive use of handheld cameras which add to the film’s realism. Cooper is a great student; his talents are already that of a seasoned director. I can’t wait for the inevitable Bradley Cooper-led western!

And for all of his work behind the camera, there’s an argument to make that Cooper’s work as an actor might be the greatest piece of A Star is Born. He uses his tough exterior to shed light on serious vulnerability. He’s a painful reminder of what fame can do to a person.

a star is born

image via Billboard

Some of A Star is Born‘s Emotional Beats are Hung Out to Dry

Where A Star is Born excels is in its discussion of fame and success. These classic beats are the strongest pieces of every A Star is Born film. But weirdly enough, for a film that is already over two hours, I could have used more from 2018’s A Star is Born, especially in its setup.

It’s tough to nail down the passage of time in A Star is Born. The film moves quickly from beat to beat, forcing a few of the film’s ideas and themes to get overlooked. Unfortunately, I never identified with Lady Gaga’s Ally and her plight of making it in Hollywood. Everything happens so fast that she immediately reaches success without much thought. The movie brings up her looks and her insecurities only when it is most convenient. It’s a bit of shame since Lady Gaga dealt with these issues in the music industry when she was first starting out. A Star is Born just doesn’t go deep enough here like it does with Bradley Cooper’s character.

The entire movie is just a bit too choppy throughout. A few elements are introduced rather abruptly and others are only utilized sparingly, yet they make enough of an influence to the point where you might wonder why they couldn’t fit organically.

a star is born

image via IndieWire

Final Thoughts

Bradley Cooper shows in A Star is Born what a true talent he his, especially as a director. His skills are already slick enough to distract you from a lot of the film’s problems. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

As a whole, A Star is Born riffs on a classic tale for a classically bold and beautiful movie that hardly gets made anymore. I’m preparing for this movie to become a phenomenon in the coming weeks, so, if you want my advice, get ready for the wave of way-too-high praise followed by backlash followed by a general feeling of malaise until everyone feels free to share their opinions again about the movie in approximately three years time.

I blame Twitter.

Grade: B+

a star is born

image via Variety


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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

7 Responses

  1. Patricia Loughnane says:

    I must be the only one who did not like this version. The diction was not at all clear with a lot of mumbling. The music itself was far too loud (which the diction could have been instead!). At times it was boring with nothing really happening – I felt it was padded out. The bad language also got a bit much!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Bummer! I must say that a lot of the music volume was to accent Jackson’s Maine hearing damage and show why he’s been on the decline. And these are pretty damaged people with a lot of problems, so is the swearing necessarily as reach? Personally, it wasn’t, but I don’t blame you for it! 😁

  2. Have you seen the first three versions of the film? I think this one follows the 70s one quite closely, although Bradley Cooper can perform and act and Kris Kristofferson can only perform. I think lady Gaga is stunning without makeup. I loved this version. Check out my review of this film when you get a chance. It’s great to find another movie lover like myself. Love your review as well.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Thanks so much! I’ve seen the 50s and 70s versions (not the one from the 30s). The 50s version with Judy Garland is so delightful! Unfortunately, I dont think the 70s version is very good at all. This one for me is right up there with the 50s version!

  3. Rakkelle says:

    I agree totally agree with this review (not that you needed me to). I saw this movie just yesterday and despite the stellar performances by both Cooper and Gaga, the issues in the film just didn’t go deep enough and was broached only for convenience. Great review, as usual, Nick!

  4. Nick Kush says:

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