“A Star is Born” marks the directorial debut of actor Bradley Cooper, who also co-stars with Lady Gaga. The film is the latest in a long line of remakes. There are officially four movies called “A Star is Born,” with other entries appearing in 1976, 1954 and the original in 1937.
This 2018 update is a drama, dealing with heavy themes such as addiction, ego, self-doubt and relationships. The film follows the stories of an aspiring singer, Alley, played by Gaga, and likable, but alcoholic, country star Jackson Maine, played by Cooper. After a chance encounter with Jack, Alley gets a shot at becoming a star herself and the two begin a romantic relationship.
It’s a great character study. Instead of having the main focus on music, fame or anything like that, the movie is primarily focused on the characters. While music and fame do play major factors, they serve more as a backdrop. Cooper has had a long career in acting before making this film and it shows onscreen. The camera is usually concentrated on him, Gaga and the other actors. The camera is tracking them or is focused on their faces.
During a sequence that takes place at a big concert, you don’t get cuts to thousands of cheering fans. The camera stays on the character’s face, showing how they act and how they feel during these situations. Because even though the movie has several musical scenes, a great soundtrack and features Cooper and Gaga’s talented singing, it isn’t about that.
Cooper and Gaga give fantastic performances and it helps that they’re playing compelling characters. It’s worth noting that Cooper was involved in the writing of the screenplay. Jack has a charming personality, but he also has an out-of-control drinking problem. Alley is also likable with her drive for success and commitment to Jack, but she isn’t perfect either. There are hints that she might be using Jack to further her own career.
Oftentimes, you are in the dark with these people. We follow them throughout the story, but we don’t always know what they’re thinking or how they truly feel. It’s hard to know based on Jack when he’s in a drunken haze or from Alley’s face, which appears emotionless at times. They are both complex and human characters, who you could imagine as being real people. With all this in mind, Jack and Alley still remain compelling throughout the film.
The supporting characters are solid as well, despite some appearing for only a short time, such as Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle and Greg Grunberg for example. The whole movie is filled with good characters.
“A Star is Born” was nominated this year for the Oscar of Best Picture. While it lost to “Green Book,” was it worth the nomination?
I don’t know, as I personally don’t care for them because the Oscars don’t matter.
But with that aside, “A Star is Born” is a great movie. Basically, it deserves all the praise it’s getting right now — excluding the Oscars, of course. I hope Bradley Cooper continues to direct in the future because I would love to see another movie made by him. I hope the same for Lady Gaga with acting.
The two main characters keep your focus throughout the film, along with the skilled acting, soundtrack and direction. Even with its difficult subject matter, it’s a gripping film, it draws you in with its story. I get a knot in my stomach just thinking back on it. Maybe it’s not the very best of 2018, but it’s such a great movie that makes you think about it.
Click here to view the latest episode of “Films From the Public,” where I show the original “A Star Is Born” that premiered in 1937.