I live for the applause, applause, applause
A Star is Born is directed, co-written, and produced by Bradley Cooper and stars Cooper alongside Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chapelle, and Sam Elliott. It is the third remake of the 1937 film of the same name, following the 1954 musical starring Judy Garland and the 1976 rock musical with Barbara Streisand.
For both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, A Star is Born represents a beginning: the directorial debut for Cooper and the acting debut for Gaga. There should be a set level of tolerance for actors and directors in their respective debuts (though here, Cooper is doubling down as an actor); there are no high and mighty expectations, meaning we as the audience won't demand too much. But if the success that A Star is Born has already achieved signifies anything, it's that Cooper has now set meaningful expectations as a director and that Lady Gaga has what it takes to branch her career into the world of acting. Between the two, Cooper being a good director is less surprising. I would think that Cooper, having worked in front of the camera enough times as an actor over the years, has learned a thing or two about how directors operate. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, surprises in a way that will certainly have her name now thrown into the hat of promising future actresses.
The story involves a famous musician named Jackson Maine (Cooper) who regularly sells out concerts but privately struggles with an intense drinking problem. Jackson stops at a bar one night and witnesses the young singer-songwriter Ally (Gaga) perform in front of a crowd. Impressed by her talent, Jackson takes Ally out for the night, finding out that she gave up on pursuing a professional music career. The two develop a friendship, and Jackson invites Ally to come backstage to one of his shows. When Ally goes to the show, Jackson invites her to sing on-stage, turning Ally into a social media sensation. The two begin to perform together during more shows and soon become a romantic couple. Ally's music career soon takes off, but as she grows more and more popular, Jackson's excessive drinking becomes more and more of a challenge for their relationship.
I am unaware of any and all acting background that Lady Gaga might have had before she starred in this film, but given the kind of musical style that she has embraced thus far into her career, there is utterly no reason to think that Gaga would be apprehensive while acting on camera. Gaga has embraced eccentricity and bizarre visuals in her music videos, so if she has no problem with wearing funky make-up and dancing around while half-naked, then acting in a musical romance couldn't have possibly been that much more intimidating to her. Bradley Cooper isn't letting Gaga off easy here though. He throws her right into the fire with a role that demands for Gaga to show a wide range of emotions and keep up with a story that isn't all that sugary-sweet.
- Cooper and Gaga show a lot of vigor in their roles and have a chemistry together that makes you want to follow these two on their love tour through all the highs and all the lows. There are plenty of good vibes to be had watching Jackson and Ally sing on stage together and as the two grow closer in their love for one another, even though in the back of our minds, we know that this is a bittersweet love story that will absolutely not have a Disney-esque ending. The two are charming and funny and don't have to try too hard to show us how, which to me is the greatest strength of the film.
- Just from the trailers, you're likely to guess that A Star is Born has great music. If you did make that guess, you are correct. All of the songs are super lovely to listen to, and there is not one weak link in the film's soundtrack. Cooper and Gaga belt out lyrics with an undeniable love for the words being spoken, while also doing a nice job with annunciations and not sounding like a drunk man's attempt at Wednesday night karaoke. And though the movie is not filled to the brim with songs, it does do the one thing with its songs that I claim every musical film/show should strive for: have the songs fuel the plot and/or character development. I've seen too many musicals who have song numbers just for the sake of being show-y, but that is not at all the case here. All of the songs serve a concrete purpose in regards to the story and its characters, so the music in A Star is Born deserves a huge thumbs up, for what it is, in and of itself, and what purpose it serves in the movie.
- I had to take a few days to fully process this movie after I saw it, and no matter how much I thunk it through, there was next to nothing about A Star is Born that I found disappointing or troublesome. Now, I didn't find the movie to be a masterpiece or anything of that nature; it's not ambitious enough so as to make that great leap into potential for masterpiece status. There is a tad bit of an Oscarbait feeling at work here, but winning Academy Awards is certainly not at the top of this film's to-do list. But given how much this film succeeds at, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will definitely be in the midst of the 2019 Oscars winners conversation.
For the vast majority of 2018, I've admittedly gone the superhero, blockbusters, and pure entertainment routes in regards to new releases, passing up on basically every good new drama, rom-com, or biographical film. And since I've made myself out to be so predictable with which new releases I will go see and review, I'm sure anyone who has read enough reviews on this blog assumed that I would go see Venom instead of A Star is Born. I decided, however, to switch things up a bit and go with what was considerably the second most popular pick for "new release to go see" this past week. I do not regret the switch-up one bit. A Star is Born has practically everything you could ask for from a musical film: great lead performances, an intriguing and touching love story, and, of course, terrific music. The film marks one of the best directing debuts of 2018 for Bradley Cooper and the birth of what may be a promising acting career for Lady Gaga. If Cooper didn't have directing expectations and Gaga didn't have any acting expectations going in, well, they do now. If A Star is Born is the kind of work that the two are capable of creating, I can't wait to see what other projects the two do down the line, whether together or individually.
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