Film Review – A Star Is Born (2018)
A Star Is Born (2018)
Actor Bradley Cooper was determined to remake A Star Is Born (2018). It took some time and to find the right actress and singer to play against him who ended up being Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper directed this new version of A Star Is Born and writing the screenplay along with Eric Roth and Will Fetters based on the original version by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson. It’s Cooper’s first time directing and contributing to a screenplay, and he took on the monumental task of adapting a classic story.
The story is one of downfalls and successes, both personal and professional. Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a successful rocker, with a sound similar to the band Kings of Leon. He is boozer and addicted to drugs, and this is established at the first minute of the film. He has a hearing problem, and it is aggravated by tinnitus. His protective older brother Bobby (Sam Elliot) serves as his manager and sometimes personal assistant. After a concert, he is chauffeured by his driver (Greg Grunberg) through the city. Needing more to drink, he stops at a random bar which just so happens to be a drag bar. This place is where he meets Ally (Lady Gaga) dolled up in a more severe look to sing “La Vie En Rose” live to the crowd. Jackson is mesmerized by her and ends up backstage amongst the drag queens to talk to Ally, and eventually continue the night elsewhere. Jackson cannot get Ally or her voice out of his head, and he pursues her. The catalyst to the rest of the film is Ally singing one of her original songs on stage with Jackson to his adoring crowd. The relationship grows, Ally’s stardom begins, and Jackson continues toward a downward spiral that hits a tipping point.
There are many elements of this film that work well, and the first one would be Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine. With the long hair, sun-eaten face, beard, and the deep voice, there is rarely a time that I looked and recognized Bradley Cooper on the screen versus his character. He embodied the character in every way possible, including having a great singing voice that worked along with Lady Gaga’s. Bradley’s Jackson is cordial and reminds me of a Southern gentleman if not for the fact that the character is from Arizona. He is too trusting with those around him and too nonchalant about his health. He has inner demons that have never been dealt with and foreshadow what is to come.
Having not been a proven actress other than a part on American Horror Story, Lady Gaga was always a risk for this film. It wasn’t until the first trailer released that audiences saw what she was capable of, other than her singing talent. Lady Gaga carries herself well as an actress, with only minor hiccups here and there where you can see that she is not totally losing herself in her character, unsure of herself. In some ways, the famous Ally is very much like Lady Gaga herself. There is a transformation of her physical self that distances her from her true self. Ally, unfortunately, loses some of what made her so special when she appears to “sell-out” and does what her manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) tells her is best to make her a success. She also loses the approval of Jackson as much as he tries to hide it.
After the film ends comes the realization that there is not one happy moment in A Star Is Born that is not clouded with drugs, alcohol, or ambition. It’s a depressing film looking at it as a whole, but it is scattered with somewhat happy and funny moments. Ally and Jackson come close in the end, but if you have seen previous versions, you know how their story concludes.
Considering we are living in a time when social media dominates our lives, there is no mention of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in A Star Is Born. At the beginning when Ally makes her first stage appearance with Jackson, there is talk of a video and all the hits or views it is getting, but YouTube is not mentioned by name. It’s a nice change to have a film about stardom and it not use social media heavily; it was refreshing.
There are a few notes of music that are repeated during important moments in the lives of Ally and Jackson together. There is no explanation of why these notes are used, and it was only after its second use did I make a mental note of its use. At the end of the film, these musical notes come full circle when a song is fully played out by Jackson and Ally. This poignant use of music to foreshadow and complete these characters’ journeys is only one of the unique storytelling mechanisms used by Cooper in this film.
This version of A Star Is Born is bound to illicit a few tears either because of the story, the actors’ performances, or a couple of the beautiful songs used in the film. I successfully left the theatre with dry cheeks, but the echoes from inside the women’s bathroom afterward tell of a different outcome. Bradley Cooper has succeeded in bringing something new to this story told many times before. He more than just modernized it, he took some care in how he wanted each character’s story depicted, making them multi-faceted, with backstories that make their road to the present more deserving. While I think most people would say Lady Gaga is the star of this film, Bradley Cooper worked hard on not only bringing the film he wanted to fruition but completely changing himself into Jackson Maine, and he is biggest surprise (and the star) of his own film.