Hot Take: The chemistry of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga carry this vanity project which should get some Oscar buzz.
It seems as if most big actors, at some point, want to write and/or direct. So, it should come as no surprise to see Bradley Cooper take on all three roles with A Star Is Born. Sure, it’s a remake of a 1937 classic which was already remade twice over (starring Judy Garland in 1954 and Barbara Streisand in 1976) and all three previous iterations have fared very well with the Academy. When Cooper chose this as his first film, it was at the very least a smart choice though a poor showing would have brought more criticism considering how successful the previous versions were. The choice of Lady Gaga was also a smart one as the main character and Gaga share some similarities and the charismatic music star was meant to be on the big screen. Even if you want to be overly critical of Cooper’s decision to take a stab at writing and directing with a fourth generation version of a timeless tale, the end result makes it difficult if near impossible to roast one of today’s top performers for what essentially is a vanity project from the four time Academy Award nominee. A Star Is Born is quite good and nails the modernization of the story. It should hang around long enough to make a little noise at the Oscars, too, with at least one guaranteed nomination for Best Original Song for Cooper and Gaga’s duet.
In A Star Is Born, Jackson Maine (Cooper) is an aging country music star battling drug and alcohol addiction. After a night on the road, Maine pops into a drag bar where he sees Ally (Lady Gaga) for the first time. While not a drag queen, Ally performs at the drag bar on occasion and immediately, Maine is smitten with the young singer. The two hang out for the rest of the night and discuss music and their lives and Ally’s difficulty getting her big break. Maine invites Ally to see him perform that night and after declining, Maine sends his driver to follow Ally until she reconsiders. When she arrives at the concert, Jackson drags her on stage to perform her song and, well, a star is born.
Cooper and Gaga have a magnetic attraction on screen and play off of each other amazingly. Even when the two are taking on their secondary talents (Cooper who sings and Gaga who acts), they shine in their roles. Sometimes the film feels as if it is in fast forward as the story advances at lightning speed and occasionally feels too rushed even at 135 minutes in length. It’s a testament to the characters and the story as we want to spend more time with Jackson and Ally and learn more about their romance and her rise to stardom.
If there’s a real criticism, it’s in the editing. As the film reaches the third act, it’s evident that some of the frequently aired trailer is missing or not as important as the preview would lead you to believe. Dave Chapelle has a minor role as one of Jackson’s closest friends in the film but the trailer would lead you to believe that his part is at least a little meatier. There are other moments that would create spoilers if revealed that happen near the end of the film that also lend to the theory that there was a retooling of the film and some slight inconsistencies in continuity.
That being said, these are criticisms that keep the film from being a 5 star film but it’s still a very good flick from a first time director and writer featuring a first time leading lady. A Star Is Born is definitely as good as advertised and should play a major role in the upcoming Academy Awards beyond what it brings to the table musically. It would be an easy film to take in a second time despite some rather grim moments as Cooper’s Maine deals with the trials and tribulations of a music career heading south coupled with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s fair to say that while the hype around A Star Is Born reached a fever pitch, most of the hype was deserved. Hats off to Cooper as his version of A Star Is Born lives up to its pedigree.
It’s the first undeniable Oscar contender of 2018.
There’s something about it being the fourth version of A Star Is Born that doesn’t sit well with you no matter how you look at it.