A Star Is Born Reviews
The cues are apparent throughout the film and there is little surprise when key events take place. Jackson is an alcoholic who has sometimes more concern for his next drink than the person standing next to him. We are given some insight into how his father affected him but he is pretty guarded about opening up about what bothers him. He is someone who has struggled with the disease for a long time. His insecurities come to the surface in his frequent drunken rages.
The heart of this movie is shown by Sam Elliott who is the brother trying to keep Jackson together. He has seen him in his worst moments but still stands by him until it is impossible to support him. This film explores alcoholism warts and all showing a talented singer who cannot leave his disease even as it threatens to destroy everything he has built. Cooper embodies the man with a lot of emotional baggage well making it painful to watch the self-destruction. His singing voice surprised me not picturing the skill and believability of an artist. This is one of the few roles I did not think of the actor and that is a good thing as he becomes the character playing something we have not seen from him.
Lady Gaga is suitable in this role showing more range than I expected. She was nuanced and believable in a role tailor made for her unique talents. Her chemistry with Cooper is evident and every time there is a magical feeling seeing them perform together. You can buy them as a couple and she is allowed to show off her impressive pipes without the layers of theatricality she usually infuses in her singing performances. Both lead actors strip away the gloss usually in music focused pictures and give raw, heartfelt performances.
This is a movie which almost reaches greatness but then falls flat near the end causing me to avoid revisiting this film. The structure of the narrative does not fit the ultimate conclusion this movie reaches. I understand the edge Cooper was looking for but this was a clumsy attempt to add weight to the difficulty of Ally's journey. Jackson is self-destructive but we are not really given much insight into his psyche and that makes the ending more difficult to digest. There could have been more of an emotional payoff with a different written ending. Instead, we are left with kind of a rushed ending which is disappointing given some of the stellar moments along the journey.
This a frequently used storyline but Cooper manages to tenderly show fame without falling down some of the same tropes. He focuses more on the dynamics between Jackson and Ally marking one of the more realistic on-screen couples. The plot points are expected and there are no real shocking events except for the ending which again was not really set up. However, he manages to get us to care about the characters being quite a feat in a remake of a movie remade countless times.
The story is told well but the ending falling flat reduces some of the emotional impact building up through the film. The acting is believable and raw throughout the picture making these characters appear real. Remakes can sometimes be better than the original and this is still my favorite version of the story. This is just a film I would not revisit due to the idea of trying to be edgy instead of finishing off the picture as heartfelt as it began.
Cooper himself stars as Jackson Maine, grizzled and drug-addled country rocker, cruising through fame down the side street of self-destruction. The film opens in the midst of an immersive rock concert... before which we see Jack swig from a bottle and pop pills on the side of the stage. Soon enough, we meet the other half of our captivating double act, as Jack stops off at a drag bar only to find Lady Gaga's Ally performing a belting version of La Vie En Rose. He's instantly smitten both with her and her undeniable talent. What follows is a love story of highs and lows, as Ally's success blooms and Cooper's Jack spirals steadily into a pit of addiction. This film not only explores the personal struggles of a relationship, but the paralysing and enticing nature of fame.
Bradley Cooper is transformative in his performance as Jackson; his gravelly tones and haggard gait make for a portrayal that is unrecognisably convincing. What is even more revolutionary, however, is Cooper's direction, an attentive approach to a story that deals with tough themes.
Lady Gaga is a powerful force as Ally; we already know this megastar's ability to dominate a stage and deliver a vocal performance, but what is even more impressive is what we see of Ally when she is still a waitress too afraid to sing the songs she writes. Gaga's performance is a compelling one and the director in Cooper is brilliant at playing to her strengths; we learn to love Ally as she grows into herself, with the help of (but not dependency on) Jack.
Ultimately, what makes A Star is Born a story worth retelling is its central romance; this film always rested entirely on that being believable. Gaga and Cooper's chemistry is simply wonderful; theirs is a real relationship, full of laughter, love and resentment. There's something so ineffable just in the way the characters look at eachother that makes their love so potent and only heightens the emotional effect of the tragedy that follows.
Whilst Jack and Ally's relationship is the obvious focus, other characters stand in the background with Sam Elliott giving a beautifully understated performance as Jack's half-brother Bobby. The relationship between Jack and Bobby is superbly done; the screenwriters know never to allow it to take too much light but it still reaches an emotional payoff in one of the best scenes. In contrast, a manipulative triangle that forms between Jack, Ally and Rafi Gavron's hissable manager is one of the weaker aspects of the film, a little too cliched and rather stunted.
There are also a few structural problems; throughout the second act, events in the story (from hastened wedding to SNL skits) stream too quickly by, yet the pace of Cooper's edit seems to drag. These are quickly resolved by the third act, however, where we are brought back to the lyrical pace of the first hour that works so well.
The soundtrack leaves one slightly underwhelmed; whilst the film's booming anthem, 'Shallow' will stick with you for days, many of the songs lack much memorability with only a few really aiding the storytelling. You almost forget about the songs however in the many concert scenes; Matthew Libatique's cinematography is judicious, an engrossing shoot, from the bright neons of Ally's tour right through to Jackson's rock concerts which we see in the same drunken haze of their star. Outside of these moments too, the film is shot with a tenderness that also manages to feel totally involving.
Early on in the film, Jackson wisely states the importance of having "something to say and a way to say it". This couldn't ring truer of A Star is Born; despite being a third remake, it's a retelling that feels like it was meant to be told. Two alluring lead performances and Cooper's deft direction make this film far from 'Shallow', but rather a deeply moving and dramatic love story that hits all the right notes.