A Star Is Born Director: Bradley Cooper
Writer: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, and Sam Elliott,
Distributor: Warner Bros
Rated R | Minutes: 135
Release Date: October 5, 2018
A Star Is Born is the tragic love story that could be told in a number of different ways. Which is probably why there are different variations since the story was first told in 1937. While the underlying message has been constant, every generation has gotten to see this story be told. But with Bradley Cooper‘s directorial debut, this version, starring him and Lady Gaga, could be the most profound retelling, yet. The film could have easily fallen into the trap of simply just telling the story of a narcissistic musician falling for a nightclub singer whose talents not only bring out the best in him but also overshadows him when the entertainment world chooses her over him, but it doesn’t.
Here we have something truly special as we hang on every word, note, and lyric that comes out of Cooper and Lady Gaga. At the same time, the film shows how their internal demons can be a dangerous and destructive force. My full review of A Star Is Born is below.
The film centers on highly publicized musician Jackson Maine (Cooper), who stumbles upon a nightclub and finds Ally (Lady Gaga) performing. Inspired by her talent and completely infatuated with her, Jackson pursues a relationship with Ally, much to her dismay. Ally has constantly been denied a singing career by many managers because she doesn’t have a “look.” However, Jackson genuinely believes that they are all wrong. And soon he becomes captivated not only by her singing but songwriting talents.
Being the rebellious personality that he is, Jackson brings Ally to one of his shows and on stage to sing one of her songs. And from there, Ally’s career as a singer and songwriter catapults to the stars. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jackson, whose downward spiral has only just begun.
Honestly, for a directorial debut, Cooper does an astounding job. Getting the right shots in to evoke a certain emotion isn’t easy to do. And yet, Cooper does that in spades. That longing gaze into your eyes that Lady Gaga gives as she closes out a song. The emotional suffering that Jackson goes through as he has to reconcile with the fact that he is being overshadowed by a talent he found and the person he loves.
And those are just some of the scenes without music. Cooper knows how to set the tone during these scenes so that it stimulates emotions of joy or sadness. In those moments, we get to see these characters when they are vulnerable.
No doubt Ally’s guarded personality and Jackson’s abusive flaws will give way to some much-needed character growth. The two have virtually been cast aside. But there is a kindred spirit between the two. Despite their flaws, they are able to bring out the best in each other. And that could not be truer whenever they share the concert stage.
It’s in those moments that we get to see these characters’ struggles and aspirations. We see Jackson who put his career on the line because he doesn’t want to wear earplugs or succumbs to substance abuse. A shy and guarded Ally who breaks out of her shell when the camera closes on her as she sings one of her songs to a large crowd for the first time and clasps her hands over her mouth when they applaud her performance. These are the emotionally raw moments. So it’s hard not to empathize as they break down knowing that their dreams are being realized.
It’s there that these the two characters are exposed on the biggest stage possible. They are vulnerable. And yet it means something different for each of them. So both their dramatic and musical performances allow them to reach down and bring out something that shows the world why they belong on this stage. Not that they don’t belong on it, but for a film about backsliding and denials, seeing the two bring out the best in each other is something special.
That only adds to their chemistry. Seeing two flawed characters connect on an emotional level through the art of music is special. It’s almost as if it was just the two of them alone and there is no one else watching. It’s simultaneously soulful and painful to watch.
And their performances are only enhanced thanks to a great supporting cast. Andrew Dice Clay plays the loving father who encourages Ally to follow her dreams to escape the cruelties of a thankless day job. And Anthony Ramos lights up the screen as Ally’s best friend and constant supporter. Meanwhile, there’s Sam Elliot as Jackson’s underappreciated brother. And finally, there’s the performance from Dave Chappelle, which is nothing short of a revelation.
Considering that this is a LiveNation Production, there is a concert vibe to A Star Is Born. The energy of the music and the crowd as it reverberates through the Dolby speakers in the opening minutes alone. Like any concert, the fans’ cheers booms and the songs are a foot-stomping good time. I should say that if you can see this in a theater with Dolby speakers, you probably should do that. And while I may not be a fan of country music, I can recognize how it is able to rile up a crowd. And I have a better appreciation of the film knowing that the music was written especially for this film and not just a compilation of forgettable songs.
The only possible downside to A Star Is Born is that it is like the previous A Star Is Born. So it will follow those familiar beats. And that’s fine. Because it grabs you and never lets you go. It’s an emotionally gripping piece that hooks us with astounding dramatic and musical performances from both Cooper and Lady Gaga.
But there are times where the film can get ugly. Jackson’s constant stumbles are a source of trouble to Ally’s career, which is now just taking off. She gives Jackson so many chances to clean up his act, and though he makes a valiant attempt, it’s more one step forward two steps back. And each backslide is worse than the next and reaches a point where Jackson becomes verbally abusive to Ally to a point where he calls her ugly – a slight that brings back memories of Ally’s denial of a music career. However, she remains devoted to Jackson. That kind of commitment is hard to come by. While many would question it, she continues to stand by her man, regardless of what others may think.
Even with its flaws, Bradley Cooper does a phenomenal job in his directorial debut. A Star Is Born shines with great performances from both Cooper and Lady Gaga, as well as its supporting cast. The music is gripping. While it is a story many of us have seen and heard before, it is one that needs to be repeated. Cooper just found a way to tell it to an audience that will have them leaving the theater with tears in their eyes.