Monday, October 8, 2018

Movie Review: "A Star is Born" (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

A country music star suffering from substance abuse issues stops into a drag bar to get a drink after a gig one night. It is in this bar where he discovers a talented young singer, and the two quickly fall in love. He helps launch her career, but as her star begins to rise, his starts to fade as the years of drug and alcohol abuse begin to catch up with him.

A Star is Born 2018 movie still Lady Gaga
"I showed you mine, now you show me yours." (Image provided by Warner Brothers)
If you are looking for a wonderful singer-songwriter to star in your movie, it's hard to beat Lady Gaga, one of the most dynamic, iconic voices of our generation. "A Star is Born" is the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper, who also stars in the film as country music star Jackson Maine. This is the fourth iteration of "A Star is Born," the first being the 1937 film starring Janet Graynor, the second (and most well known) is the 1954 version led by Judy Garland, and the third is the 1974 movie starring Barbra Streisand. Now, it is Lady Gaga's turn at the part, who plays rising star Ally in this version. Ally is a food server who moonlights as a singer in a drag bar on Saturdays. One night after a concert and desperate for a drink, Jackson Maine stops into the bar where Ally works. For Jackson, it's love at first note. Jackson and Ally hang out after the show and get to know each other pretty intimately for a first date. Jackson asks Ally to come on tour with him, and though it does take some coaxing, she finally agrees. During his concert, Jackson drags Ally on stage to sing a song that she wrote and sang to him on their first night together, which catapults her career into the stratosphere. At the same time, however, Jackson's struggles with substance abuse and years of wear and tear from being around loud music and touring are catching up with him and are starting to take a toll on his own career as his star begins to fade.
A Star is Born 2018 movie still Bradley Cooper
"It's not always the best singers who make it." (Image provided by Warner Brothers)
You may be asking yourself, "with three other versions of this film already in existence, did we really need a fourth?" The quick answer would be "no," but once you hear Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga sing "Shallow" together, you'll know the answer to that question is actually a resounding "yes!" "A Star is Born" is a fantastic first-time effort from director Bradley Cooper, but where he really shines the most is his performance. He is tremendous as Jackson Maine, a man struggling with addiction in the limelight for everyone to see. Cooper is able to say and convey so much emotion with just a simple look. Cooper also has an incredible, raw singing voice and gets to show off his musical prowess, vocally and lyrically speaking, with resounding success. Lady Gaga is no stranger to acting. She had small roles in Robert Rodriguez's "Machete Kills" and "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," as well as a larger role on the television series "American Horror Story," but this is the first time we have seen her as a leading lady in a major motion picture. Gaga gives an excellent performance and shows that she can most definitely lead a film, especially one where her character is required to sing. Many actors transition from the music industry to Hollywood and vice versa with only minuscule success, but we have a hunch if Gaga hones her craft a bit more, she could potentially be one of the all-time dual-greats. While they are both good individually, what really sells "A Star is Born" the most is the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. The instant they are on stage for the first time together, it was as if all the air got sucked out of our theater. Tears flowed, audience members wept, skeptics believed in love again, albeit for one brief moment. Their chemistry is electric, their love story stirring, the drama both believable and traumatic. It's that good. As frequent cinema-goers know all too well, it's rare to find such a spark between actors, but Gaga and Cooper manage to keep that authenticity present from start to finish. We'd be remiss if we didn't also mention Sam Elliott, who plays Jackson's brother Bobby. There is a lot of tension and strife between Bobby and Jackson, and Elliott is able to bring a pearl-clutching intensity to the scenes they share together as tempers flare, deep-seeded angers fly freely, and words cuts like a knife. Everyone is rightfully talking about Cooper and Gaga's chemistry, but we feel like Elliott and Cooper have some of the best scenes in the whole dang movie.
A Star is Born 2018 movie still Bradley Cooper Sam Elliott Lady Gaga
"You're not going to get back what you lost." (Image provided by Warner Brothers)
As we mentioned above, Lady Gaga has an incomparable voice full of soul and emotion, and she is an equally talented songwriter on several of the best tracks in the film. We are 110% positive we will see her get an Oscar nomination for 'best original song' (at the very least) for her efforts here. The music is really what drives "A Star is Born." The soundtrack tells the stories of the highs and lows of this relationship from the moment it begins. Standout tunes include "Black Eyes," "I'll Never Love Again," "Always Remember Us This Way," "Maybe It's Time," "Alibi," "Is That Alright?," and of course, "Shallow." The story is a relatively simple romance that deals with the extra baggage that fame, fortune, and a voice smooth like bourbon can bring when you add alcohol and drugs and stardom and talent into the mix. One of our main critiques is that we do believe there are a few places where the story could have been refocused a bit more. The first half of the film is significantly stronger than the latter portion. The peak scene for us comes when Gaga and Cooper sing "Shallow" on stage together for the first time. Several other affecting things follow, but nothing quite lives up to the unbelievably intoxicating experience of watching Jackson make Ally's dreams come true.
A Star is Born 2018 movie still Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper
"'I'll sing for life with him." (Image provided by Warner Brothers)
"A Star is Born" is the definition of a "see it in the theater" type of movie. The concert scenes beg to be seen on the biggest screen possible, but so does the endearing-but-heartbreaking romance. Bradley Cooper kills it in all aspects, Lady Gaga slays in more ways than one, Sam Elliott shines for the brief instances he's on screen, the drama is good, the music is phenomenal...this is an absolute must see in our minds.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.5/10
RT Rating: ~90%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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  1. Nice review! I agree with everything pretty much - the performances were wonderful; Cooper and Gaga's chemistry is on fire, and the story is even better than the 1976 version (in my opinion). It's definitely one of the best movies of the year.

    1. Hi Katy!

      It is nice to hear that the story is better than in the 1976 version! We had always been curious about the older versions, but have yet to watch them. We have been inspired by this new incarnation to watch them all! Do you think there's any chance that Cooper and/or Gaga will get nominated for best actor/actress?