Movie Reviews

A Star Is Born (2018) – An Epic Character Musical (Early Review)

There’s actually a reason to be excited for the third remake of a movie.

Synopsis: In this new take on the tragic love story, he plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers—and falls in love with—struggling artist Ally. 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. (Warner Bros)

Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, and Sam Elliott

Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Director: Bradley Cooper

Rating: R (United States)

Running Time: 135mins

Trailer: 

The fact that this is the third remake of a 1937 film of the same name will surely be lost on a lot of viewers as they will only see it as the latest Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga vehicle and that’s fine. Despite this, the film has earned plenty of hype as it possesses all the earmarks of an award contender. Regardless of this, it still has to come together and thankfully it did. In Cooper’s directorial debut, he plays a veteran musician named Jackson Maine who by chance plucks a struggling singer named Ally (Gaga) from relative obscurity and eventually leading her to stardom.

Jack helped Ally to believe in herself and her abilities and encouraged her to put herself out there by giving her the push she needed. Jack and Ally lived much different lives with Jack being a rich and famous rockstar and Ally being a working-class, aspiring singer. She always had dreams of becoming famous but was always held back for one reason or another. Now that her talents were finally getting recognized, Ally was uncomfortable with the spotlight and initially did not take Jack’s opportunity seriously. Over their time working together, Jack and Ally began to fall in love.

This film was both a rise and a fall story as one character path came at the expense of the other. We knew from the start that Jack was not a well-off character, however, she loved him despite this. Drugs and alcohol hampered Jack but he still found a way to manage for the most part. These deep-seeded issues stemmed from a rough upbringing with his older brother Bobby (Elliott). Their complicated relationship brought on some strong moments though the story could have gone further here. In addition to this, the pairing of Jack and Bobby’s accents was occasionally hard to decipher (everybody knows about Elliott’s voice but Cooper’s southern accent did require subtitles at times).

However, the story was about Ally and her rise (hence the title) and the contrast between her and Jack. Each were engaging to watch apart but were magnetic together. In fact, they were together for most of the film. Ally was a good influence on Jack though she could not always watch him. The drama took a little while to get going though when it did arrive, it packed a strong and relentless emotional punch as tension inevitably grew within their relationship. The struggle was real for both of them. In building her career, others did not see Ally the way that Jack did so she had to fight those who wanted to change her to get what she wanted. Meanwhile, Jack suffered from his addictions and other demons while trying to continue with his career. For better or worse and through many ups and downs, they did it together.

Simultaneous to all the drama, this film was also a musical. We all know that Lady Gaga can sing but some may be surprised by the fact that Bradley Cooper can also sing. All the musical performances were done live and were thrilling to watch with and listen to thanks to some great sound design. All the music in the film was great, however, “Shallow” and a song that ended the film (not sure about the title) will be the ones that will get the most attention. From the musical performances, to the emotional character moments, the cinematography was excellent here at creating both an immersive concert experience and a compelling drama. Ultimately, a bulk of the credit belongs to Cooper who impressively manages to bring it all together in his directorial debut.

The film had a lot right going for it, however, the best part of the film was the performances and chemistry of Cooper and Gaga as Jack and Ally respectively. As mentioned, Cooper was the whole package as he stood toe to toe with Gaga in the singing department all while giving an amazingly deep performance as the charming, tragic, and self-destructive rockstar. Gaga was equally impressive in her first lead performance, even outshining Cooper at times, bringing plenty of emotional range and likability that it was easy to follow her during her journey over the course of the film. Though Ally’s story was arguably rushed by the end, her final performance was truly heartbreaking. Elliott was so strong in limited screen time as Bobby that it was a shame that his screen time was limited.

Overall, this was an excellent film that is both an epic musical and a powerfully tragic character drama with excellent cinematography and sound design as well as amazing performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, all brought together by Cooper in what was an impressive directorial debut.

Score: 9.5/10

*A Star is Born opens in theatres on October 5th*

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