Review: A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born is the fourth version of the 1937 classic film of the same name. Cooper produced, directed, co-wrote, and stars in this updated story about two people, love, and the evolving price of fame.

Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a singer-songwriter with a severe drinking problem. After stumbling into a bar one night, Jackson sees a beautiful young singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) perform. Their meet-cute leads to Ally being a popular singer, and the two of them start a serious relationship. Jackson’s drinking becomes a bigger issue as his career starts to fade and Ally’s begins to rise.

Hollywood is very good at figuring out what types of movies grasp the attention of voters during award season – A Star is Born has all the necessary boxes checked. It has a Hollywood star’s first time directing, a singer turned actor, an actor turned singer, a gripping love story, and great music that can be performed at award shows. This is a film tailor made for award voters.

Even with it hitting all the marks, the film manages to exceed all the expectations that have been swirling around since its inception.

Lady Gag is an absolute STAR and will take some hardware home this year, but more on her later. The most surprising part about the film is how well it’s directed. There are multiple close-ups and intimate shots that are designed to draw you into the film, and it works. Bradley Cooper has a talent for capturing the tiniest intimate moments between characters. There’s the glance Ally gives Jackson as she’s laying across the bar and the close up on Noodles (Dave Chappelle) as he reaches down to help Jackson up – figuratively and literally.

As Jackson, Cooper is fantastic. He’s got the grizzled voice down and the hunched over walk to match. The character of Jackson Maine would be easy to overdo. He could be too much of an alcoholic and not lovable or he could be too much of a great husband and not believable as a person struggling with addiction. Cooper does a great job framing Jackson’s relationship to addition and how damaging alcoholism can be.

Most people familiar with Gaga know how much of a star she is and that star power is on full display. She delivers very touching musical performances while simultaneously giving a heart wrenching emotional performance. Ally’s character asks Gaga to do a lot emotionally and she’s up for the challenge and more. The best example is one of the best scenes in the film when Ally shows up at Jackson’s concert. The camera stays on her face the entire time as you’re watching the journey of a young woman hesitant to go on stage but eventually surrendering to stardom (as she sings Shallow) in front of thousands of people.

A Star is Born is one of a few films this year that feels like a lock to win at the Academy Awards. It’s not only a wonderful story but a beautifully made film that’s guaranteed to tug at the heart strings. The story makes you fall in love with its characters and all their flaws. Underneath all the music and career conversations, it’s a film about two people falling in love and trying to figure out how to make it work.

Grade: A