A Star Is Born review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
As I sat in the theater awaiting another version of A Star is Born, there was a fear in the air. I could hear murmurs of the same topic floating around the audience; can Lady Gaga act? Sure, it was on my mind as well, almost as heavily as to whether Bradley Cooper could become the triple threat of the picture by directing, co-writing, and acting in a role that requires both emotion and singing talent. Relax, folks; by the time Cooper strolls up to the mic and Gaga bursts onto the scene, you can rest easy knowing they have the chops to dominate the screen and the microphone.
Cooper plays Jackson, a washed-up singer-songwriter that is just starting to tumble down the slope. With his hearing going and his drug problems worsening, he retreats to the bottle as his brother/manager (Sam Elliot) watches on both angry and sorrowful. But then a gleaming light comes into his life when he stumbles into a drag bar for a drink. Upon the stage, the most unlikely of discoveries is Ally (Lady Gaga). By day, she works in a kitchen and tends to her home where her dad (Andrew Dice Clay) is running his own business with his buddies. By night, her voice comes out in the most dazzling performance of “La Vie en Rose” I’ve ever seen. Jackson wants her on the stage and his life, despite how she feels about not being pretty enough to be a star.
After much pushing by Jackson and a fearful leap by Ally, their singing careers and romance takes off. As Ally rises up in the charts and on magazine covers, Jackson slips further down the road to mediocrity as he drunkenly stumbles down a darker path. And yet they remain together, despite their feuds, Jackson’s problems that require much attention, and Ally’s manager that insists she drops him as he is a dead weight on her career. But they stick close, through the toughest of time, and Cooper and Gaga have the beautiful chemistry that we want to see them fight to keep the romance alive.
There’s so much to adore about this picture. The music is unforgettable, every song carrying a little extra meaning so that the centerpiece song of “Shallow” never sounds the same twice. The film is beautifully shot, small clues always in the background that either reveal the past or future for these characters. Watch how in one shot we see the pain of Ally having lost her mother without directly stating it, the wedding photo visible in the background. A foreboding billboard is seen just outside Jackson’s car as he heads into a bar for a drink. The supporting actors are all just as strong, from the emotionally-bitter Sam Elliot to the casually philosophical Dave Chappelle. Cooper’s direction also keeps the film relatively fat-free, breezily skimming over the lesser moments of the media circus and slowing down to linger on the more intimate and tender moments of Jackson and Ally.
A Star is Born is the type of film I’d want to watch many times over to catch anything I may have missed in the expertly-shot scenes and drink in some more of that powerful music. This is one of the best films of 2018, if not for its production overall, then for the acting and music at the absolute least.