“A Star Is Born” (2018)
Running Time: 135 minutes
Written by: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters
Directed by: Bradley Cooper
Featuring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle and Sam Elliott
Jackson Maine: “Can I tell you a secret?”[Ally looks over to him]
Jackson Maine: “I think you might be a songwriter. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody. But I’m not very good at keeping secrets.”
When I first heard about the “A Star is Born” (2018) remake it had Clint Eastwood as director and Beyonce as the ingénue that is fated to eclipse her older mentor which was enticing enough, but when both dropped out and star Bradley Cooper came on as not only actor but producer/screenwriter/director it seemed like the world may have been turned upside down, especially with the casting of pop Diva Lady Ga Ga in the pivotal role. This is at least the fourth direct remake of the original movie from 1937, and it is possibly the best version (which is really saying something), told in a modern context with not only pop music at its centre but also County music as well, which play extremely well against each other. What is so surprising is the way in which all levels of this movie work in relation to each other, the performances, the original music, the way in which it is filmed both on locations, in sound stages as well as the musical numbers, the way in which supporting actors have been cast in roles that they would not normally be known for, down to the way the plot has been deployed through its editing as well as its classical Hollywood narrative.
The biggest question about this film especially coming out of festivals was, is it any good or was it just a vanity project, the great news is that this is not only a good film, it is a great one, that is going to have long legs quite a while after its release date, and going into awards season where I believe it is going to do very well on all fronts, notably for Bradley Cooper across a few categories as well as for Lady Ga Ga where I think she is a lock for an Academy Award for ‘Best Song’. There are so many examples of films similar to this that do not fare well, especially when they are released at this time of year, feature good casts, could be considered atypical of their genre and are built around big performances but fail to either make an impact or are just bad. This is not the case with “A Star is Born” which is pretty much built about two central performances, they are so strong that they mitigate any other deficiencies that are contained within the film from a first time director.
Speaking of directors, “A Star is Born” has not only been directed by Bradley Cooper, but he has co-written, co-produced and even co-wrote some of the music which is as impressive as you can get, particularly when this is the first film behind the camera. By the way, he gives the performance of his career in the role of Jackson Maine, an alcoholic, pill popping country singer who is as believable as any role he or anyone has ever been in. The key to Cooper’s success I believe in this film is the first hour where you get to know the two main characters from their introductions, which does let up for the next hour, this also represents the best hour from any film this year, it is almost perfect with every aspect, however the last third of the film is a little more uneven but to be fair this is the heavy lifting for the audience as well as the plot and is when this film comes together into the final few scenes which really bring the narrative to a final full stop. My only nit-pick would be it seems like Cooper may have had a difficult time putting together a completely coherent narrative as it seems the time the movie takes place over is a little confusing as are the jumps that are made. Not that this is a negative as this is still one of the great films of the years.
“A Star is Born” concerns Jackson Maine, a famous country singer privately battling an alcohol and drug addiction. After one show, Jackson happens upon a drag bar where he witnesses a performance by Ally, a waitress and singer-songwriter. Her talent amazes Jackson; they spend the night speaking to each other, where Ally discloses to him the troubles she has faced in pursuing a professional music career. Jackson invites Ally to his next show. Despite her initial refusal she attends and, with Jackson’s encouragement, sings on stage with him. Jackson invites Ally to go on tour with him, and they slowly begin to form a romantic relationship.
“A Star is Born” is really based around the Lady Ga Ga character but this is a deceptive film as it to me is really about addiction, as well as the arc of the person that Bradley Cooper portrays which is a difference from other versions of this story. As I have already stated this is Coopers greatest performance, which is saying something as he has already been nominated for three acting Oscars, however this is the one that should win it for him. What is stunning about this performance is that Cooper appears in most of the scenes but is directing at the same time while giving a three dimensional performance. Not only that but at many times he is either singing or playing an instrument, as well as performing in front of real audiences, this is one of the more unique performances of the modern age, it is inspiring to see what he is capable of. On the other hand this is the big screen debut of Lady Ga Ga who of course excels in the musical scenes as well as the more naturalistic scenes but there is no doubt that that inexperience plays a part but she does acquit herself exceptionally well, I am sure we will be seeing her onscreen for years to come. There are three supporting actors that are all excellent they are Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle and Sam Elliott, the two former are comedians who do their jobs well, but the real stand out is the actually great Elliott as Coopers brother. Elliott is an actor that has appeared in almost every genre, but it is with his performance here, while small makes a massive impact on the main characters and lends some of the heart to the movie outside of the music, look out for his name to be announced at awards time.
The final aspect of the film that is really worth noting is the music, which really is another character. Many films that are not strictly musicals but feature music heavily are normally at least written by third parties but this is where “A Star is Born” really makes its mark with the music being supplied by both its principal’s in Lady Ga Ga and Bradley Cooper. Because this music is written by one of the co-writers of the movie it all not only adds to the narrative but actually means something and is poignant which is an additional layer of meaning which can only mean great things for this movie’s future.
This is a film that should and actually deserves to be seen in cinemas, it is one of those rare films that presents itself as a classic and actually succeeds on almost all levels. Sure there is currently a high amount of hype that surrounds this movie but unlike many others it is an instant classic that tells an almost universal story about love, talent, loss and success in equal measures. What Cooper has done is take a previous plot, cast some very good actors, created some great music and combined all of these with great behind the scenes talent to produce a great unmissable film.