As your substitute film reviewer, I don’t often get the chance to review the holiday tentpole movies. You know, the ones that are hyped beyond belief. A Star is Born certainly falls in that category, so the biggest (and really, only) question is: does it live up to it? Yes.
While the action is distinctly divided into acts (filled with many of the plot devices we’ve seen countless times), the performances of Lady Gaga (playing Ally) and Bradley Cooper (playing Jackson Maine) — both their singing and their acting — is incredibly impressive, emotive, and powerful. We know Gaga can sing, but we didn’t know if she could carry a film. She can, and she absolutely kills it as a young singer/songwriter with something to say, and a music industry not really willing to listen because she doesn’t have a perfect nose. Sidenote: Gaga sans makeup and performance-art costumes is mostly how we see her in this film, and I had no real idea of what she looked like before. She’s revealed to us as an audience just as Bradley’s troubled country rock star sees her, and it’s an effective choice by Cooper, who also directs.
Also, we know Cooper is a decent-to-above-average actor, but yes, The Hangover guy also impresses. My thoughts on direction usually come down to: did I like it or was I confused by it? I did like it, and I think any special tricks during drunk hazes only add to the spectacle of the story. What is unquestionably impressive are the musical performances, which to a song are (again) powerful and magnificent to watch on the big screen.
About that story. I hadn’t seen or really known the plot of the previous iterations of A Star is Born, so I was able to watch without thinking about Barbara Streisand or any of the other talent who’ve portrayed the title star. As mentioned, the plot follows predictable beats: Girl Meets Boy, Girl Discovers True Self, Girl is Hurt by Boy, and They Reconcile. Of course, this isn’t the full story, and it’s more heartbreaking than I expected. Kudos to Cooper especially for making us love him as we hate how he acts. And, if Sam Elliott doesn’t get an Oscar nod for his performance as Cooper’s much older brother, I’ll consider it a personal affront.
See this movie, you’ll be humming “Shallow” for days to come, and you won’t be mad about it at all.