Prepare thyself people, for a counter-opinion to the barrage of praise and Oscar buzz that has been bestowed upon the latest incarnation of 'A Star is Born' over the past few weeks! It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that a film, an idea, could be so great that it needs to be remade four times - one for every generation of the last century. I must also admit that this 2018 version of ‘A Star is Born’ is my very first foray into the film (Sorry Judy. Sorry Babs. Sorry Janet.) but as I would later find out, not my first foray into the story. As it turns out, ‘A Star is Born’ goes by many different names, and the talented substance-abusing superstar meets the equally if not more talented undiscovered ingénue is a tale as old as time. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great tale filled with romance, music, an underdog, and a stud in a film that ultimately suffers second-act slump syndrome and an ending will forever perplex me. If you’ve seen one such film you’ll know what I’m talking about. Come on guys, you’ve had four goes at this already! But for the uninitiated...
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’) is a country-rock superstar who likes drugs and alcohol and is constantly fighting a worsening tinnitus problem along with his own relevance in this world. One night he meets Ally (Lady Gaga, ‘American Horror Story’), a waitress who sings her guts out every night for drag club patrons as the cast's only (naturally) female member. Her talent blows him away, and soon the pair are on a whirlwind journey as Jackson makes Ally a part of his act. She’s soon discovered by the industry, sending her skyrocketing to superstardom as Jackson’s demons get stronger and stronger, further testing their relationship.
While not Lady Gaga’s first time on screen, it is her first time as a lead, and on the big screen. A born performer, she most definitely has the chops to pull off the role as a talented singer/songwriter with a set of pipes that can’t be matched. However, she’s constantly paired in scenes with Bradley Cooper who out-acts the shit out of her. An admiral attempt to keep up with him is made; I cannot fault her on that but she’s simply out-classed. The often sub-par screenplay doesn't help. And their chemistry? Eh. I was, however, interested to see Lady Gaga play a role that was almost too on the nose (pun not intended) - a talent who’s discovered and turned into an over-sexualised pop princess. There’s even one scene where Ally and her manager debate whether or not she should turn her mouse-brown hair platinum blonde. Hello! And another where Jackson criticises her tacky sexual lyrics. Again, am I wrong here? As for Cooper, this is his grand directorial debut. Why he chose to make this picture above all others (including something original) has got me scratching my head - but whatever, I’m sure he has his reasons. While an adept director with terrific taste in cinematographers (Matthew Libatique, 'Black Swan'), what Cooper lacks is the ability to tell a story visually as well as simply interpreting script to screen. There are three stories being told in ‘A Star is Born’: one woman’s rise, one man’s fall, and a love story in the middle. I saw none of that outside the dialogue.
The real standout of this piece however, is the music. My god - it’s incredible.
The real standout of this piece, however, is the music. My god - it’s incredible. Numbers that make your heart thump out of your chest, bring a tear to the eye, or gets those toes tapping. The hero song is ‘Shallows’, a poignant song for the film itself and a duet to die for, whether you’re enjoying our two lovebirds belt it out or because it’s Bradley Cooper (yes, he can sing!) and Lady freakin' Gaga!
‘A Star In Born’ had me (for the most part) for the first half, but lost my in its second. The choices our protagonists make don't make sense, and despite the inevitable fall the film is gunning for, in this current day and age there are better, more meaningful and definitely more organic ways to do it than the undercooked cop-out this film gives us. I feel like this film had all the ingredients to rock audiences to their core with characters and a tale that truly means something and it was certainly headed that way, but by the time we got there, I just thought, eh, I’ve seen it... but how cute was that dog!