Review| A Star Is Born

Review| A Star Is Born

I have a confession to make. I haven’t seen any of the previous A Star Is Born iterations. I watched the 2018 version in a vacuum and without the context of the previous versions (five to be exact). Whether that hinders my ability to assess this film or helps me see it with fresh eyes, my impressions might evolve after watching the others. Even though this film was created in a different generation, the themes and narrative of A Star is Born are much of the same. A talented young woman is discovered by an established, famous man who helps skyrocket her to stardom while he struggles with addiction and a waning career of his own.
There’s a lot to love about this film. Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut with this version and he does a beautiful job. The shots and lighting are the perfect compliment to the chill-inducing soundtrack which were developed by Gaga herself along with various collaborators. Cooper and Lady Gaga give stunning performances and it’s clear that Cooper put his heart and soul into his version of A Star Is Born. In interviews for the film he’s called it his passion project and when they talk about the movie together, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper clearly have a lingering connection after making the film together. They both seem emotionally wrecked by the story and Gaga even went on to say that she immediately dyed her hair back to blonde after shooting to distance herself from her character in the movie as much as possible.
Both previous versions and Cooper’s version of A Star Is Born explores what it’s like to become an overnight success and the pressures that it can put on a person and especially on a relationship. What helps Cooper’s iteration of this story stand out is the dynamic between Jackson (Cooper) and Ally (Gaga). While moments of tension arise, especially when Jackson is compromised by his addictions, Jackson is in full support of Ally and her career. He is amazed by her talent and there is a mutual admiration that will make you swoon. Jackson’s infatuation with Ally is well-deserved. Gaga gives a powerhouse performances that I expect she will earn an Oscar nomination for.
This film stands out as one of the most heart-wrenching and expertly executed of the year so far, but just like it carries over many aspects that cause audiences to want to see it remade over and over, it also carries over a few problematic themes.
I won’t go into the conclusion of the film to avoid spoilers, but I took to Twitter to share my own thoughts and struggle with the ending and I opened it up to other viewers to get their thoughts (the verdict is still out about whether that was a good or bad idea). It turns out I wasn’t the only one with strong opinions about the film and especially its ending. I saw every comment from staunch defenders of Cooper’s decision on the ending, to people who weren’t big fans. Many people put the first half of the film at the top of their list for the year, but feel that the end falls flat with some thematic loopholes and a disappointing resolution. That’s where I land.
While I understand what Cooper was trying to do, it felt to me that he unraveled Jackson’s motivation at the end. It’s obviously more nuanced and complicated than all that. When you consider the way addiction can destroy a person’s life and cause them to act in completely foreign ways to how they normally would. I get that it’s a battle and in keeping with the framework that’s been set up by the other versions, this story is ultimately a tragedy, but there was a real opportunity for hope and healing and love here. An opportunity that was missed. Not only that, but the way Cooper decided to inspire such a weighty decision by the main character felt cheap and unconvincing.
A Star Is Born will likely go far during awards season. It has all of the elements of an Oscar contender – a beautifully crafted melodrama about the entertainment industry. It’s not a stretch to expect that most audiences will love this film and the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper. However, while I can definitely cheer for the quality of this film and am impressed by Bradley Cooper’s first run behind the camera, I can’t say this film would shoot to the top of my list this year because of the last half. You’re in good hands technically and aesthetically with this remake of A Star Is Born, but brace yourself for a thematic let down.

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