For the third (or fourth, depending on how you count it) remake of 1937’s “A Star is Born,” debut director Bradley Cooper also stars (and he produced, and worked on the screenplay) as chemically-dependant musician Jackson who helps young singer Ally (Lady Gaga) find fame and fortune even as his own life and career hit the skids. You probably know all of that since the basic plot remains largely the same while the trappings of modern fame and the temptations that lie in wait are updated with each iteration. You’ll also know then that things don’t end well, although Jackson meets a slightly different fate in each movie.
This time around the focus is less on the love story and more on the struggles regarding addiction, depression, relevancy in this finicky digital age, artistic integrity, and ego.
And it’s all done really well; from the music to the acting, to Cooper’s directorial debut… but it may not ultimately be the story you’re expecting to see from the trailers — which largely look like an edgy Hallmark movie.
Although Gaga’s great and holds her own opposite Cooper, is playing a singer really all that much of a stretch? When she’s not performing onstage onscreen, her lack of acting chops shows, as though she’s running the numbers of what she thinks An Actor would be doing in a given scene. Ally has talent but is also so insecure that any crack about her looks lays her low, no matter how high she’s riding at the time. And while Cooper is certainly convincing in a combination of drawing on his own painful past whilst channeling Kris Kristofferson from the `76 version of the movie, there’s not a whole lot about his character to like.
And as is too often true with addicts, Jackson can’t help but succumb even if his sober intentions are good. Meanwhile, Ally eventually becomes the sort of act that Jackson loathes, as she plumbs the depths of her personal life for material and presents it center stage in a self-serving promotion complete with full strings for maximum effect. Cooper’s choice to cut away for a moment to the intimate birth of such an eventual glitzy song is a great choice, but one that also highlights just what Jackson was worried about, and what Ally (and the audience, most likely) didn’t get: the private is now public. The personal is now product. Our most quiet moments must be repackaged as a music video.
Or a movie. And this one is also overlong at 2 hours and 16 minutes, and golly is it vulgar! I’m no choirboy, but the F-bomb rate approaches gangster-flick numbers, and it seemed unnecessary and distracting. If this is supposed to be part love-story, romance is not only dead, it was effin killed.
A Star is Born (2018)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Runtime: 2 hrs. 16 min.
Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse
Directed by: Bradley Cooper
Writing Credits: Eric Roth (screenplay by) and Bradley Cooper (screenplay by) & Will Fetters (screenplay by), Moss Hart (based on the 1954 screenplay by), John Gregory Dunne (based on the 1976 screenplay by) & Joan Didion (based on the 1976 screenplay by) and Frank Pierson (based on the 1976 screenplay by), William A. Wellman (based on a story by) (as William Wellman) and Robert Carson (based on a story by)
Cast: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin, Marlon Williams