A Star Is Born (2018) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Star Is Born (2018)



Critic Consensus: 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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In this new take on the tragic love story, Bradley Cooper plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers--and falls in love with--struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer... until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

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Bradley Cooper
as Jackson Maine
Dave Chappelle
as George "Noodles" Stone
Rafi Gavron
as Rez Gavron
Alec Baldwin
as Himself
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Critic Reviews for A Star Is Born

All Critics (345) | Top Critics (51)

The problem is whenever Cooper turns the film away from his best asset (Gaga) and into a vanity production.

October 8, 2018 | Full Review…

What Cooper persuasively depicts is the fear factor of stardom-the sense of vulnerability, of a position that's both powerful and fragile.

October 8, 2018 | Full Review…

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.

October 5, 2018 | Full Review…

Melodrama gets a bad rap sometimes.

October 5, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

There's real vitality in Cooper's direction in the early passages, and, in the performances of the costars, an understanding of the ravages of romance that justifies putting ourselves through the paces of this sad story yet again.

October 5, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

I believed Bradley Cooper was a man who writes Soundgarden songs but dresses like Sturgill Simpson. I believed Lady Gaga was Joe Biden's daughter. I never wanted it to end.

October 5, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Star Is Born

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

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

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+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer


THAT 70s MOVIE - My Review of A STAR IS BORN (4 1/2 Stars) There's no way around the fact that despite some shortcomings here and there, Bradley Cooper's directorial debut with A STAR IS BORN is a triumph for everyone involved and truly filled with greatness. For everyone who complains that "they don't make 'em like that anymore", who miss films which take their time building relationships and give their actors room to breathe, who appreciate the scale and grandeur of Hollywood films, then this intimate epic will serve as a perfect antidote for all of the soul-deadening CGI drivel passing as movies these days. Yes, Marvel, I'm talking to you! Sure, this is a remake four times over of a melodramatic "one rises while the other one falls" tale, and most will agree the 1954 George Cukor version starring Judy Garland and James Mason is the most definitive, but this latest version has its own uniquely fizzy charms. Set in the music world much like the 1976 Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson debacle, Cooper and his co-writers, Eric Roth and Will Fetters, seem to have specifically remade that film and turned it into something much more special. He uses the same boilerplate, the same bubble bath makeover of our male lead, and even the same, "I just wanted to take another look at you" line. They're worth stealing, even though that film had more problems than not. In the Barbra version, I wasn't even convinced that she and Kristofferson had ever met, so non-existent was their chemistry. That film will always have "Evergreen", but this one will be known as the one that launched Cooper as a very fine director and showed off Lady Gaga, in her feature debut, as a charming, endearing, ballsy, sensitive, natural screen actor. Eschewing the horrors of Kristofferson's opening number, "Watch Closely Now", Cooper opens the film with his aging addict country rock star, Jackson Maine, executing a very credible Pearl Jam-esque song. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique (BLACK SWAN) shoots close and loose, allowing the viewer to feel the concert from the star's POV. On the limo ride from the concert, Jackson runs out of alcohol and persuades his driver to pull over at a gay bar. It's drag night, and Ally (Lady Gaga), who works as a cater-waiter and has just dumped her boyfriend, is about to perform. Her BFF, Ramon (a charming, guileless Anthony Ramos), befriends Jackson and prepares him for her appearance. Et voila, out comes Gaga with glued-on eyebrows dancing across the bar singing "La Vie En Rose". She lies down and turns to face Jackson in one of those unforgettable movie moments, and we're off to the races. Enchanted by her, Jackson, drunk but still able to fixate on Ally, spends an entire night with her, asking questions, adoring her nose, talking about what's important to them, and getting blown away by her talent when she sings a song to him. It's all done so naturalistically, giving us a budding relationship beat by delicious beat. It felt so alien to me, the kind of storytelling only seen in indies anymore, where character is king. In fact, it felt like a 70s movie, more specifically a Hal Ashby film with a little bit of Cameron Crowe's 70s-set ALMOST FAMOUS thrown in there. There's a comfortable, hippie vibe to everything. Jackson Maine may as well have been Jackson Browne. Carole King's TAPESTRY album graces Ally's bedroom walls as vinyl records and turntables seem to populate everyone's living room. Except for a specific reference to YOUTUBE and a lovely, accepting drag sequence (great scene-scene-stealing work from Shangela and Willam Belli here), A STAR IS BORN sits comfortably in the Me Decade. Like the character he plays, Cooper the filmmaker seems dazzled by his star and allows us so many visual moments where we get to discover something new and great about her. From the grace note where he runs his finger down her nose as her eyes turn towards him with a look of incredulity, to the truly transcendent moment she takes the stage to sing "Shallow", where every emotion washes across her face, ending in the most adorable button at the end when she squeals, "There are so many people!". By now, at this stage in her career, Lady Gaga could be the most jaded person on the planet, but clearly she remembers where she came from, exuding the freshness and innocence the role requires. It also necessitates a lot of scrappiness, which she rises to the occasion with scenes in a grocery store, a bar, or simply by defending herself while in a bathtub. Not surprisingly, Gaga shines in the music sequences, which feature a host of memorable songs. Before her character transforms into a pop star not unlike her own persona at the beginning of her career, she pours her heart into genres we're not used to experience with her, and she's blazing. Cooper also deserves accolades for his singing and ease at portraying a musician. Too many actors have failed to do so without looking silly, but Cooper captures the details perfectly. It's how he walks through this world that sold me. You believe how he sits on a stool to perform without being able to see the crowd or hear anything above the mic feedback. You buy how he stumbles drunkenly across a hotel room floor. When he sings a song to Willam, your heart melts for this kind but troubled soul. Cooper also gets a wonderful supporting turn from Sam Elliot as his Manager/Brother, Jackson's resentful, shame-filled caretaker who, despite the constant turmoil, loves Jackson deeply. A simple of shot of Elliot driving away from Jackson's house, the car in reverse as he looks back with an entire history filling his teary eyes, took what could have been a nothing moment and makes it gut-wrenching. Andrew Dice Clay, as Ally's father, also delivers a world class performance, suggesting with great economy his own struggles with show biz dreams and his rage at Jackson despite an obvious fondness. His scenes with Lady Gaga bring out her feistiness and sweetness. David Chappelle, in a too brief role as Jackson's lifelong friend, brings such warmth and history to his part. I would have loved more. Rafi Gavron, in the impossible role as Ally's shark of a Manager, manages to find a caring person in there, despite some of the "this is just business" approach to his job. It's tricky and well-realized. The fact that he does something so unforgivable and never suffers the consequences rings so true, especially today, where deplorable behavior gets rewarded with, say, high positions within our government, as one example. Some of A STAR IS BORN feels a little choppy, especially in the second half, where it feels like many scenes fell by the wayside. Sequences lurch where they should build. It's a minor complaint, as some of the jumps work so effectively, none more so than when Jackson takes a corporate pharmaceutical gig and we cut to an abrupt shot of him smashing some pills with his boot and snorting them up wholesale. Cooper and his editor, Jay Cassidy (AMERICAN HUSTLE), cover up some of the story holes with an elliptical style used, shocker of all shockers, in a lot of 70s films. I loved the edit when Jackson is just about to perform "Maybe It's Time" for the third time in the film, and instead we cut to a profile of Jackson as he watches a distorted silhouette of Ally practicing her choreography in the background. This film is filled with such visual language and count me very impressed. Without spoiling anything, this technique produces a stunner at the very end of the film, cutting away from an overpoweringly emotional Ally moment to something so simple and sublime, and then back to a beautiful closeup, all of which made me cry not only at the sadness on display but also at the sheer perfection of the filmmaking. One could easily walk away from A STAR IS BORN and say it's a film about addiction, or it's about artistic voices and integrity. All valid. I, however, will look back at this remarkable achievement and remember it as a moment where Hollywood took back its crown and put out a big, spanking movie movie.

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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