A Star is Born - 2018
Director(s): Bradley Cooper
Writer(s): Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters (screenplay) / William A. Wellman and Robert Caron (story)
Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique
Editor(s): Jay Cassidy
Cast: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, Andrew Dice Clay and Rafi Gavron
This is the fourth time that A Star is Born has graced the silver screen, with the original coming out back in 1937 starring Fedrick March and Janet Gaynor. While many aren’t that familiar with the original, most are with the 1976 remake starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson so it’s fair to have a bit of trepidation towards this movie’s story being devoid of anything new to say or simply being played one too many times. But there is a line in this movie, and I will paraphrase, that helped me put this remake into context; there are only eight musical notes being played over and over again, it’s up to the artist to use those notes to say something new. And I believe Bradley Cooper said something new while keeping the spirit of the source material alive.
The story centers around a blooming relationship between an alcoholic/drug addict rock-star, Jack (Cooper) and a waitress/singer, Ally (Lady Gaga). After watching her sing, he instantly becomes infatuated with her and ignites a romantic and professional relationship that takes them to the highest and lowest points of their lives. While this movie has a lot going for it, both in front and behind the camera, the strongest and, in my eyes, the main aspect to its success is the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. I know it’s a cliché phrase to say, “their chemistry,” something that everyone knows what it means yet it’s a concept hard to pinpoint or put into context. Even people in relationships can’t fully express why they have chemistry with their significant other. It’s almost a gut feeling. But the way they looked at each other and the intoxicating and addictive nature of their smiles was palpable. It felt like I walked into a fly trap and I couldn’t escape their chemistry. I found myself smiling along at certain points in the story.
Quick note: very few directors use the title reveal nowadays, it simply appears over some generic background as if to say, “You know what movie it is, you bought the ticket”. But how they shot Gaga going up a hill after throwing away the trash and the words appearing around her let me know I was in for a good ride.
Might as well jump into their performances. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga felt human, real and unadulterated, as if the cameras weren’t there and I was a voyeur into their relationship. Cooper completely embodied his character, making him feel real and not a portrayal of a broken man. His cadence and his body language helps the audience disconnect Cooper from the character and his musical ability is the cherry on top of the performance. Gaga is wonderfully restrained, contrasting her bold and broad real-life persona. She is vulnerable and open to falling in love with a man that is clearly broken and lost in the world. And we all know she can sign, but she managed to be Ally while performing and that was something I wasn’t expecting, I thought I would simply see Gaga singing. The rest of the cast is wonderful. Sam Elliot has a couple of moments in where he gets to flex his acting muscles, Dave Chapelle is solid in his limited role and Andrew Dice Clay is quietly collecting underrated performances that nobody expected he was capable of. I do feel Anthony Ramos was underutilized as his character is the generic gay best friend that floats in the background and he could’ve been far more than that.
Quick note: the music Cooper, Gaga and the team wrote and composed is simply beautiful. The lyrics, while tied to the story, stand on their own two feet, making them worth a listen even if you don’t watch the movie. They tug at the heart strings, making sweet melodies out of my emotions.
This is also Coopers directorial debut, and what a way to start. Now, I won’t go as far as to say he should win the Academy Award for Best Director like many are suggesting, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was nominated. I think it was perfect that he was also staring in his debut as it felt like his character influenced how he directed the movie. The way the camera framed Gaga was almost a love letter from Jack to Ally. Often directors tend to have their male gaze pointed at their female actors, making the audience feel like they should be sexualizing even the most trivial actions portrayed on screen (see M. Bay’s Transformers for reference). But here Cooper seems to be in awe of Gaga and through the camera, along with the help of Matthew Libatique’s amazing cinematography, invites us to also be in awe of her talent first and her beauty second. I liked how they played with light source and how they mirrored his concert performances with his final scenes.
Quick note: the editing was spot on and the final sequence had me fighting back tears that I eventually let out.
A Star is Born is a great movie, I can’t put it in simpler terms. Is it a masterpiece, no, and I wouldn’t hold that against it. Rarely is a movie considered unequivocally a masterpiece. But the palpable chemistry, the human performances, the heart wrenching musical performances and the love-inspiring romance that makes you want to call your significant other and say “I love you” is more than worth the price of admission. Cooper is a talented actor, director, writer and somehow he is also now a talented singer. Unfair that he is also a beautiful man, leave something for the rest of us. Gaga and Cooper are why I love movies.
A Star is Born is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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