Movie Review: 'A Star is Born' shines brighter than anything else this year

Sep 28 2018, 11:56 pm

With awards season quickly approaching, A Star is Born makes an early case for not only Best Picture, but a slew of other awards including acting, directing and original music.

This isn’t the first version of A Star is Born. In fact, this is the third time the film has been remade. It seems that every generation gets its own version. The tale is a story of one star’s rise and another’s fall, and their intertwined connection throughout it all.

However, the strong performances, beautiful soundtrack, and smart directorial choices put this film in a class of its own.

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Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

The story is one we’ve seen before. Not simply in the other versions of the film, but in the large majority of dramatic films. A love story defined by external struggles that determine whether or not true love can survive.

When you dig deeper, you can see that Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut asks much deeper questions about addiction, mental health, celebrity, and the passion of art.

The two artists portrayed in the film, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) are on opposite sides of their musical careers, both struggling with their own problems. One battling with stardom, substance abuse and (ironically) hearing issues.

The other battling with a life of normalcy, finding happiness in a modern world, and always wanting more. When they cross paths in the most unique of places, their love at first sight may seem cliché, but comes off as real and honest. That authentic on-screen chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is undeniable. Each look, touch, and moment between them holds importance and carries throughout the whole film.

Bradley Cooper and P. Scott Sakamoto in A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

This connection is created by Cooper’s impressive balance between writing, directing and acting; a tall order that is often botched in films of this magnitude. However, Cooper finds the balance of his numerous roles on set, with the need to capture the grandness and intimacy music and performance can create. Lady Gaga is captivating and plays perfectly across from Cooper on screen. Even smaller roles, like that of Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s father and Sam Elliot as Jack’s brother, are given time to shine and add the sincerity the film demands.

This is not only Cooper’s first time behind the camera, but also Lady Gaga’s first time in a leading role, in a performance that demands honesty, vulnerability, and trust. She exceeds expectations with an emotional performance that has the audience rooting for her the whole way. While we all might not have dreams as lofty as Ally’s, we can see a little bit of ourselves in her nonetheless.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

As well as the performances of the cast, the original music in the film is simply incredible. The film begins with an arresting performance by Jackson. His soulful voice hits hard right out of the gate, and sets the audience up for that emphasis the film puts on great music. The tight camera shots bring the viewer into an intimate space, as if we’re fans watching each song be performed at a small venue.

There’s an honesty and vulnerability on display throughout the film that isn’t often seen in Hollywood. The rawness is both uncomfortable and alluring. It’s a filmmaker’s ability to create that connection that draws the viewer in, making the highs and lows hit that much harder. We feel true emotion for these fictional characters on screen, and that’s what makes the film so compelling. We cheer for Ally and root for Jackson. And we want their love to shine through.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

There’s a moment when Ally is listening and watching Jack play her a song he’s written. Tears are rolling down her face as emotion overcomes her. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been listening to that song, “Shallow,” on repeat all day, thinking about that same emotion.

When done right, movies and music can touch something inside us that is indescribable. And when they come together as beautifully and honestly as in A Star is Born, we are left with something that sticks with us long after leaving the theatre.

A Star is Born is one of the year’s best. 5 out of 5

Opening Oct. 5. Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse. 135-minutes long.

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Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett

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