A Star is Born (2018) – Film Review
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
by Roger Crow
I doubt the world was desperate for another version of A Star is Born, the tale of a musician on the descent whose path crosses with one on the rise. That intersection is what makes the tale work. It’s a format as old as the hills, but of course it’s the dynamic between the two leads which sells the concept.
Barring repeat listens of ‘Evergreen’, that phenomenal Barbra Streisand Oscar-winner from 1976, I’ve never ‘experienced’ any version until now. A pet project for Bradley Cooper, who took over the movie when Clint Eastwood dropped out, he’s perfectly believable as the gruff, alcoholic drug-taking music star Jackson Maine. The man can carry a tune, and is obviously a great actor as he’s proved countless times over the years.
“Gets under your skin”
When Maine looks for a post-gig drink, he stops off at a drag bar, is figuratively knocked out by former waitress Ally (Lady Gaga), and she literally tries to knock someone else out. Taping frozen peas to her bruised hand in a parking lot is not exactly textbook seduction in the movies, but it tells you a lot about Jackson, the practical sort who obviously knows a lot about improv medical solutions on the road. A car park is also neutral ground, so both let their guard down, and Jackson gets a glimpse of what a skilled singer-songwriter Ally is.
What unfolds is pure movie magic for the first half as they fall in love; she overcomes her shyness to guest at one of his gigs; the inevitable agent spots her potential and sets her on the road to stardom. The clue’s in the title.
What’s not as obvious is how much the film gets under your skin, like cracking song ‘Shallows’. It’s no ‘Evergreen’, but it is a slow-burner, like the film itself.
“Niggles are forgiven”
Cooper and Gaga are phenomenal. Jackson’s descent is heartbreaking while Ally’s rise is captivating. Every time she’s on screen I can’t take my eyes off her, and I’m not that much of a fan of Lady Gaga.
ASIB, as no one is calling it, should touch a chord with anyone haunted by personal demons. Yes, there a certain predictability about the second half, but it’s handled so well, including that stunning final five minutes and standout last few seconds, that niggles are forgiven.
If there’s any justice, Gaga should land Oscar and BAFTA noms for her turn, while Cooper should be a shoo-in for either acting, directing or both. We’ll have an indication of how the Oscars shortlist will go when the Golden Globes nominations are released. (Some Academy Award judges tend to use that as a guide).
“A fine job”
There’s a good chance the iconic Sam Elliott will also get a nod as Best Supporting Actor. He’s long been one of the best thesps in the business with the finest ’tache in Hollywood.
There’s a truth to the film, which is crucial for any movie to work. I completely bought the relationship between its leads, and when things inevitably go south, it’s not the story of two music stars coping with the price of fame, but partners dealing with the disease of other addictions, including escaping the shadow of a lost parent.
Take tissues and an open mind, even if a certain star’s work usually leaves you poker-faced. One rabid anti-Gaga fan was converted by the closing credits, so there’s hope for all viewers.
A day after the screening and the film still lingers, like that song you can’t get out of your head before you leave for work. Take a bow Bradley Cooper. You’ve done a fine job, though like the movie, I’m guessing your co-star will steal much of your thunder.