Dan's Review: Lady Gaga shines in "A Star is born"
Oct 04, 2018 03:15PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born - © 2018 Warner Bros.
A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.
Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, Bonnie Somerville, Michael Harney, Rafi Gavron.
Written by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters, based on the film "A Star Is Born" by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell.
Directed by Bradley Cooper.
Fame is fleeting unless you can recycle it. From its apex in 1937, the tale of A Star is Born has spanned nine decades, with remakes in 1954 and 1976 along the way. I’m not usually a fan of film remakes since they often deteriorate from the origin’s greatness (if any). Now comes Bradley Cooper’s attempt to resurrect the love story between an aging, alcoholic celebrity on the decline and his muse on the rise. A Star is Born is Cooper’s directorial debut and the debut of Lady Gaga in a leading film role.
It’s the story of Jackson Maine, a country/folk/rock star with a serious alcohol and drug addiction problem. After a concert one night, Jackson ducks into the nearest bar, seeking more alcohol. The bar turns out to be a drag queen establishment, where Ally (Lady Gaga) performs because she has been told she isn’t pretty enough to launch a singing career on her own. The pair forms a friendship that quickly escalates into romance, but not before Jackson discovers the extent of Ally’s talents, including some incredible songwriting. He eventually coaxes Ally onto the concert stage, and her voice and songs become an immediate sensation. As her fame rises, Jackson’s substance abuse increases, much to the disappointment of his brother/manager Bobby (Sam Elliott) and old friend Noodles (Dave Chappelle). Ally signs with her own manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) and launches a successful solo career, much to the delight of her best friend Ramon (Anthony Ramos) and father (Andrew Dice Clay). Things come to a head when Ally wins a Grammy and Jackson joins her onstage for the acceptance speech, embarrassing her with his drunken behavior. Jackson is checked into rehab and cleans up his act as Ally plans a world tour. Rez confronts Jackson, telling him that the sobriety won’t last and Ally’s career will suffer for it. Jackson takes his own life, leaving Ally to pick up the pieces and forge ahead.
There is little difference between A Star is Born 2018, 1976, 1954 and 1937 in terms of overall plot. What makes Bradley Cooper’s version stand out from the others is the genuine way he tells the all-too-familiar tale (Cooper also co-wrote the script) with dialogue, cinematography and some bold casting choices. While Cooper gets credit for adding originality, a solid acting performance and his own singing talent to A Star is Born, it’s Lady Gaga who shines the brightest, with her incredible voice and down-to-Earth acting, sharing the vulnerability of a “regular” person on the verge of greatness.
Gaga also co-wrote most of the songs in the movie (along with Cooper and Lukas Nelson, son of Willie), and while some of them are the same kind of electro-pop you’d expect from Gaga’s early career, others are moving and powerful – especially “The Shallow,” which is performed as a duet between Ally and Jackson. I’m pretty sure it’s the odds-on favorite to win Song of the Year at the pending Academy Awards.
While Gaga’s voice performance is nearly perfect, A Star is Born is not. The middle act tends to drag on and delay the inevitable downfall of Maine, with several superfluous scenes involving the ups and downs of substance abuse and the entertainment industry. Even though I love Dave Chappelle and recognize his underutilized talent as an actor, his inclusion in the film seems the most out of place, with no explanation as to why his character would be buddies with Maine in the first place. The cinematography is a mixed bag as well. While visually compelling, the documentary style (shaky camera) gets in the way of some scenes.
Even with these minor flaws, it is well worth paying full price admission to experience Lady Gaga’s God-given voice. If you think she’s just another attention-seeking pop star who wears a meat dress, you’re missing out. Her talent transcends genre and fills the entire screen with beauty in A Star is Born.
A Star is Born Trailer