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With appealing leads, deft direction, and an affecting love story, A Star Is Born is a remake done right -- and a reminder that some stories can be just as effective in the retelling.
With appealing leads, deft direction, and an affecting love story, A Star Is Born is a remake done right -- and a reminder that some stories can be just as effective in the retelling.
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All Critics (422)
| Top Critics (53)
| Fresh (379)
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Somehow, though, the bloat is almost appropriate in a story about excesses, and the devastating pitfalls of fame. "A Star is Born" portrays both poignantly, movingly, well.
It's heartfelt, well-paced, and gut-wrenchingly tragic, with the gorgeous music and two main characters taking centre stage by grabbing hold of the audience's emotion until the very last second.
The problem is whenever Cooper turns the film away from his best asset (Gaga) and into a vanity production.
What Cooper persuasively depicts is the fear factor of stardom-the sense of vulnerability, of a position that's both powerful and fragile.
This movie has everything: a swept-off-your-feet romantic fantasy, an underdog-makes-good journey, a wrenching substance abuse drama, and an industry cautionary tale combined.
Melodrama gets a bad rap sometimes.
A Star is Born is well-intentioned, but wants to play it far too safe for any of the good objectives to resonate.
"The dramatic structure is identical: we are witnesses of the birth of a star and the tragic decline of another..."
I really enjoyed this otherwise standard musical for the most part because of the fine performances by Lady Gaga, Cooper, Elliot, Gavron and Dave Chappelle. It is enjoyable despite the fact that the story is painfully clichéd.
The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is striking; throughout he is mesmerising, she is a joy. Though this is a story told very much from Jackson Maine's point of view.
The soundtrack is thoughtful, emotional, and difficult to imagine being brought to life by anybody other than Gaga and her diverse vocal talent, which feels right at home on the big screen.
Gaga and Cooper really click with the emotional elements of the material and bring a lot of energy to the very simple and familiar story.
An inspired and touching revitalization of an American tragedy. Bradley Cooper fleshes out a troubled but sympathetic character in a downward spiral who meets an immensely talented but insecure lady gaga. Their chemistry is believable, as well as their musical chops, with some of the best songs written and performed for a contemporary film. Some minor pacing issues spoil an otherwise cohesive retelling that shines for the honesty of its performers.
While I'm not particularly a fan of remakes, unless the original film was terrible to begin with, A Star is Born has been a film that's been remade numerous times since the original version from 1937. Upon hearing the announcement that this 2018 version would be coming along, I decided to revisit the previous three renditions of this tale, with the original 30s version being the standout version in my personal opinion. With that said, I was highly looking forward to this movie in particular, due to the fact that the cast behind this film has already proven themselves to be talented in the past and Bradley Cooper stepping in to write and direct only peaked my interest more. A Star is Born is one of the best films of 2018 and one of my favourite remakes of all time.
Following Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) as he stumbles across a struggling artist in Ally (Lady Gaga), they form an unlikely bond that very quickly gives her fame and fortune, if not in the best ways. Jack is a very detailed character here, being a drunk, having family issues, and struggling with his fame, while Alley is pretty much the exact opposite of that. This made for some terrific drama and the third act of this film brought me to tears. Between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, I think you'd be crazy to believe this movie isn't going to give them both many awards in the coming months, but I truly believe Sam Elliot may give the best performance in the film. The way he subtly displays emotion here was absolutely brilliant and I think he deserves the most recognition for that. His character is fresh and has never been seen in any of the previous versions of this story, which was a pleasant surprise.
When people reflect back on this film, they may remember it for the performances or where the story progresses from start to finish, but the music plays a very large role here. Although this isn't a musical, the original songs throughout this film are characters themselves. Throughout the film, you'll hear heavy Rock, Country, and even Hip-Hop, which caught me by surprise, but each song helps to deepen the characterization of either Ally or Jack and it was incredible to witness. Where I think some viewers may find issues, however, is in the fact that this film takes place over quite a long period of time.
After the second act of this film concludes, it does speed up the pace and slightly jumps through time on multiple occasions, asking the audience to follow along without giving any definitive answer as to how much time has really passed, but I personally didn't find it necessary and the natural progression was felt by me, personally. The way this film is stitched together in editing was terrific in my opinion and only elevated the concert sequences, as well as the calm moments between characters. Sound and music drive this story and the editing around it all was very much present here and very well done.
In the end, although the core story has remained the same through the years and the conclusion probably won't surprise those who have seen the previous versions of this story, there is enough of a fresh take here to please fans and newcomers. This 2018 version of A Star is Born takes the best elements from the past and injects new life that added many layers to these characters. Aside from a few jarring instances that come out of nowhere story-wise, I truly don't have many complaints. This movie worked for me on an entertainment level, as well as an emotional level and it's one of the best movies I've seen all year.
This new rendition of a generational tale brings modern-day storytelling and music to life by commanding performances from Cooper and Gaga. The 2018 version of a Star is Born shines a light on the well-blended music and love that carries its tune long after the credits are rolling, making for a brilliant piece of art under the belt of both stars on and off the screen.4.3/5
There have been four official renditions of A Star is Born. I say "official" because other storytellers have imitated the famous formula countless times (2011's Best Picture-winner The Artist is essentially the same tale). The original 1937 version starred Janet Gaymor and Frederick March and was about a Hollywood acting starlet. The 1954 version starred Judy Garland and James Mason and was nearly three hours. The 1976 version swapped Hollywood for the music industry, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (a generation asks, that guy from Blade?). Now Bradley Cooper has taken to reviving this old favorite, much like a singer re-imagining a classic song. As a character says in the film, there are only 12 notes within each octave, and it's up to the individual artists to take those same 12 notes and spin them in meaningful ways; it's the singer, not the song. Cooper and his company have refashioned A Star is Born for 2018 audiences, and it's an emotionally satisfying showcase for its booming stars.
Jack (Cooper) is a popular singer-songwriter with a long career of hits stretching back decades. Ally (Lady Gaga a.k.a. Stefani Germanotta) is a waitress with big dreams of stardom. She writes her own songs but is afraid to perform them because of her looks. One night Jack stumbles onto her performance in a drag club, and from there he's smitten. He invites her onstage at one of his concerts and the duo sing Ally's song she wrote. From there they're inseparable and Ally's career explodes. She transitions to a solo pop act thanks to a thinly veiled villainous British manager (Rafi Gavron). Jack's addictions and maladies seem to be getting worse as the relationship continues and Ally must choose between her blossoming career and being the caretaker for the self-destructive man she loves.
This is Bradley Cooper's debut as a director, as well as a screenwriter, and he knows that the formula of A Star is Born is universal and requires little tinkering. The real draw will be in the characters and the performances, and that's where A Star is Born 2018 shines. Cooper's character is a talented mess and we're introduced to both aspects early. The film opens with him playing onstage and it's full of vigor, swagger, and all shot in a long take to keep the electric feeling alive, also highlighting Cooper doing his own strumming. This is a rock star that knows what he's doing, we immediately sense. Then in the car ride as he desperately looks for a source of alcohol, we see how cavalier he is about his own addictions and self-destruction. He's also suffering from tinnitus and refuses to wear hearing aids because he feels it will make it harder for him to be in the moment, thus taking away something from the authenticity of his performance. That's a key word when it comes to Jack. He is obsessed with authenticity and using the spotlight to say something meaningful. This ethos will cause friction in his relationship with Ally as she gets molded into a pre-fabricated pop star with lyrics about butts in jeans. Jack knows deep down that his time in waning, both commercially and physically, and he is driven to make the most of it before the spotlight dissipates. In some ways, Ally is a reclamation project for his career and his person. It's not manipulative. He genuinely wants to do right by her and give her the opportunities that he thinks she deserves. I never doubted Jack's fidelity to Ally, especially as we learn piece-by-piece his troubled back-story with a troubled father. Jack has two significant relationships in his life, Ally and his older brother and tour manager, Bobby (Sam Elliot). He pushes them away while needing to draw them closer and that conflict drives the character more so than his musical legacy.
Cooper the actor does a suitably good job losing himself in the character, alternating charm and warmth and rage and stubbornness. His singing vocals are pretty solid and add to the overall impression of Jack as a character rather than an acting vehicle for a director who wanted to show off. As a director, Cooper follows the instincts of his character and has a very practical, no-frills sense of style, sticking to longer takes and pinning the camera to his performers to get every nuance of emotion across their tear-stricken faces. His camera instincts are on verisimilitude and trust in his actors, and they deliver for him. I liked the little moments that Cooper finds to let his characters stretch and for his film to breathe. The initial courtship between Ally and Jack over the course of one long night sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We can tell early on there's something special between these two. There's also some fine moments between Cooper and Elliot (The Hero) expressing the hardships of two hard-headed brothers tired of dealing with the scars of their alcoholic father. It's a delicate balance so the soapier elements don't overwhelm the pivotal sense of realism that Cooper is after. The fact that he finds that right balance throughout a 135-minute movie is an accomplishment in and of itself, let alone for a novice director, although the pacing is a bit sluggish at points.
This is rightfully Gaga's show and she dazzles on stage and on screen. It's tailor-made to be a showcase for Gaga and her sensational singing, so she's got many supports from Cooper and company to succeed. Cooper is good but she is unquestionably great. It's her movie and just as Ally becomes a star so too does Gaga. It's not just the musical performances too, which are uniformly outstanding while still being able to be done through the lens of her character. Her performance of "La vie en Rose" is slinky, brimming with assurance, and magnetic to watch, giving the audience a sense to what Ally is capable of. You can easily see why Jack would become enchanted with her immediately. Her big moment singing her original song to a stadium of thousands is the highlight of the film. Cooper's camera stays trained on Ally on the sidelines as she goes through a myriad of emotions, working up the courage to saunter onstage at the right time to belt out her original tune. It's a thrilling and emotionally rousing moment that feels literally star making. You see her nerves melt away as she lets go and immerses herself in the music. The dramatic moments are just as nicely delivered, though there are the occasional bump or two. Gaga has a feisty sense of self that pushes her to push back, but she can also be achingly vulnerable and lovesick as her character falls head over heels for a troubled man. She's present in every scene and has a strong rapport with Cooper. I fully expect her to earn an Oscar nomination for her performance and likely one for an original song.
With all that being said, A Star is Born 2018 also strangely relegates Ally's character. Walking away, I began thinking over the movie and its characterization and I realized that Cooper and his team of screenwriters have given the rising star the least amount of material. She's got the most screen time and her character arc is evidently clear, the rags-to-riches ascent, the naiveté giving way to hard-won wisdom and heartache. She has big dreams and gets more confident as the film continues and her career comes alive. All of that is clear, but dig deeper and you'll discover less than you remember. Ally doesn't even follow the track where as her notoriety increases so does her ego. She's pretty much the same caring, humble, ambitious human being as a waitress and as a Grammy award-winning musician. I suppose her static status says something about how solidified her own sense of self is even after her dreams come true. She's not one for the temptations of the recording industry and grater fame and fortune. I don't think she even has a flaw; perhaps a mild lack of confidence in her performance abilities thanks to shallow male executives that equate physical looks with commercial mass appeal (Gaga herself has spoken about the negative feedback she received for years because of her looks). But a lack of confidence is a pretty weak and easily resolved flaw in a narrative. I think her big character flaw is actually her devotion to her self-destructive relationship with Jack. In order to go into more detail, I'll be spoiling portions of the movie (if you haven't seen any of the other versions) so please skip the next paragraph to remain absolutely pure.
Inherent with every rendition of A Star is Born is one performer on the rise and one performer on the decline. This goes with the territory, as does the falling star having some kind of crippling addiction that only gets worse. Cooper is too devoted to bringing a sense of realism to his film to merely add a happy ending. The romantic relationship between Ally and Jack is the heart of this movie but I began questioning whether it was actually a good relationship, not good in a sense of the quality of writing but good in a sense of whether it was ultimately healthy for Ally. He's an alcoholic, a pill-popper, and he's pushing himself too hard in a race against his irreversible hearing loss. He's spiraling and figuratively drowning (literally in the 1954 version) and looking for a lifeline, and that's Ally. She becomes a primary caregiver for his benders. She's willing to sacrifice her career for him, and that level of devotion alarms even Jack, pushing him into making a fatal decision in the guise of helping her. That's right, it's a movie that portrays suicide not just as a tragedy but also as a misplaced gift (2016's Lights Out did something similar to resolve its supernatural dilemma). It's hard to tell what Cooper's view of this decision is, whether it's romantic or wrong-headed and cruel. Their relationship is self-destructive and Ally's insistence on sticking it out, with a man who doesn't trust his own will power to stay sober, comes across as a questionable asset. Should I not be hoping that she leaves and finds happiness with someone who is healthier for her?
A fun thing I noticed was the ongoing appearance of alums from the TV series Alias. The show aired from 2001-2006 and was some of the best network TV, especially its first two rollicking seasons of spy hijinks. Cooper was a supporting character on that show and he does right to his co-stars by using his own increasing leverage in Hollywood (three Oscar nominations, repeated bankabaility) to give them high-profile work. Greg Grunberg, J.J. Abrams' lucky charm, plays Jack's understanding and put upon personal driver. Ron Rifkin plays an addiction counselor that offers hard wisdom to Jack. I was hoping that Victor Garber and Jennifer Garner might be around the corner but alas it was not to be.
A Star is Born 2018 is a worthy and emotionally involving addition to the oft-repeated formula. It's more emotionally grounded, eschewing sensational melodrama for something authentic and resonating after it's long over. This is a familiar story but it's been made relevant to a modern audience and given an emotional clarity that is richly affecting. It's a big Old School sort of movie with big feelings but Cooper maintains a sense of integrity throughout, treating his characters as flesh-and-blood human beings. Gaga is the sensational standout but every actor does good to great work here. I wish the script gave her character more dimension and opportunity to flash even more complex impulses, but I'll be happy with what I got. A Star is Born 2018 may be the best version yet, and that's saying something for a story that's been kicked around since FDR. It's the singer, not the song, and this movie is sweet music to your ears.
Nate's Grade: B+
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