A Star is Born (2018)

This is the fourth feature adaptation of the story of A Star is Born and there is a reason why they continue to remake this film.  The movie is a classic.

Actor Bradley Cooper makes his feature film directorial debut with the remake, and he does an admirable job as director.  It cannot be easy to choose something so well known as your first directorial job, and then to be the lead actor as well can only make that even more difficult.  Cooper does a remarkable job considering all of the challenges he could have faced.

However, it was not just as a director that Cooper shined.  Playing the lead role of Jackson Maine, Cooper knocked it out of the park, practically making himself one of the leading candidates for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

The story is familiar and this version does not detour from it in any real substantial manner.  Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a rock singer and kick ass guitarist who is on the edge of a downward path of his career.  He meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a young and shy singer.songwriter with a powerful voice, and he help introduce her to the world of super stardom.  The two of them fall in love, but the celebrity of Maine brings with it pitfalls galore that he has to try to overcome and that make their love story harrowing.

Cooper is tremendous, but so is Lady Gaga.  She is exceptional in the role of Ally.  She brings so much soul and heart to the role that a lot of seasoned actresses would be unable to accomplish what she did.  I have heard some criticisms that Cooper “tailor-made” the role for Lady Gaga and focused on her strengths and that seems to be a reason some people are downgrading her performance.  That is an obnoxious comment, as if actors and actresses aren’t having their strengths targeted by directors in every movie.  The attempt to belittle the achievement of Lady Gaga is unnecessary and borders on misogynistic.

The music in A Star is Born is unbelievable, and not just the Lady Gaga songs.  Sure, Lady Gaga is one of the best vocal performers in the entertainment biz today, but who knew that Bradley Cooper was as awesome as he turned out to be.  The first song performed by Cooper, “Black Eyes,” was a rocking smash.  There are so many emotional hits and rocking good times on the soundtrack that it is one that I am going to be looking into on iTunes.

Some of the side characters had amazing performances as well.  In particular, Sam Elliott, who plays Jack’s older brother, is just out of the world.  Sure, Sam Elliott is always great, but this is next level work.  Every second he is on the screen, Elliott is breathtaking.  Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father and he is amazing here as well.  I did not expect to see Clay be such a transcendent figure in the film, despite his smart part.  David Chappelle makes a small, but memorable role as one of Jack’s old friends.  I do have to say that Chappelle’s part just kind of came out of nowhere, but that is a minor gripe as he was great when he was on screen.

The story itself is an emotional one, and will definitely require tissues before it is over.  There are amazing moments of joy and other moments of heartbreak as well, as Jack deals with his addictions and Ally deals with her new found fame.

The one problem is that the story is a bit predictable.  It follows a formulaic pattern and it does not deviate from those beats much at all.  Since it is the fourth version of basically the same story, I can see where some people might not be surprised with the events that happen in the film.

There are also some pacing issues and, because of this, the film does feel a little long.  However, the amazing chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga helps to push those issues to the side.

A Star is Born has been remade four times, once in 1937, 1954, 1976 and now in 2018.  This new version works on a ton of levels and should be one of the big Oscar nominated films for this year.  The film is carried by two powerhouse performances by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, whose seamless chemistry makes even the doubters change their tune.  It is a great movie and a remarkably entertaining time at the movies.

4.5 stars

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