A Star Is Born - Review
When the title card for A Star Is Born appeared slowly over a singing Lady Gaga walking through a dimly lit tunnel, I knew I was in for something unique. A Star is Born is one of the best blockbusters of the year, and despite its messy ending achieves excellence in both filmmaking and acting.
Within the first hour, everything that occurs in the trailer for A Star Is Born has happened. Ally’s discovery by country star Jackson Maine, her come up, and their subsequent romance. I don’t mean to imply that the film moves too quickly, rather the contrary. Getting the setup out of the way is one of the best things A Star Is Born does, allowing time for Bradley Cooper’s Jack to absorb the massive changes in his life. Ally’s ascent to fame provides the perfect cover for him to fall off the edge, which he reflects in the songs he and Ally write. For the most part, they are excellent, bringing in elements of roots rock, country, and the pop music Lady Gaga attempted on her last album, Joanne. There are a handful of duds, the final song in particular, but for the most part they do their job: Capturing the mood, showcasing Lady Gaga’s undeniable talent as well as Bradley Cooper’s emotional singing voice. This is a film that continually attempts to top itself, up until the final scene, where it falls flat on its face. Ally’s emotional tribute song to her late husband is underwritten, and caused me to question why it was included in the final cut. For a film that focuses so much on the relationships behind songs, reducing Ally and Jack’s relationship to a cheesy and poorly written ballad in the final scene was an unexpected fault.
Bradley Cooper steals the show in A Star is Born, taking on acting and directing duties for the first time. Shots are consistently gorgeous and of the highest quality, primarily thanks to cinematographer Matthew Libatique’s colorful eye. The film opens with a roaring guitar solo from Cooper’s Jackson Maine, shot in deafening fisheye to showcase the enormity of Jack’s life. For a studio produced film this kind of creativity is rare, and rarer still are any sort of quality performances. Lady Gaga’s Ally is perfectly cast, and does a remarkable job convincing the audience that she is not a world wide pop star. But the gold lies with Bradley Cooper, who takes the standard drunk rock and roller and turns him into something fascinating. The film would not have been possible without his talents, and his ability to play someone who is both caring and ruthless. His range is on full display, in what is likely to become a career best performance. Jack never fully abandons his principles, but instead succumbs to the combination of his vices and massive changes to his career. It’s hard to believe that Bradley Cooper will fade from relevance any time soon, but as Jackson Maine he realizes just how dangerous it could be.
Aside from an inauthentic ending that somewhat soils the emotion of the third act, A Star Is Born is a wonderful marriage of acting and direction. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are perfectly cast as Ally and Jack, but this is Cooper’s film. Music is described in the film as a constantly repeating twelve note bar, the only variable being the way an artist plays the notes: A Star is Born not only plays the notes well, but invents a new lens to see them through.