A Star is Born (2018)
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper
Actors: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle
A Star is Born has been garnering a lot of attention over the last couple of months. Aside from it being a remake of a film that has already been remade once or twice, it is a big step for both Cooper and Gaga. It is Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s major acting debut. Both are stepping into uncharted territory and it has brought all eyes on them. The overall result is a positive one to say the least. Critics have been raving about the film since its release. Positive reviews are seen everywhere and many speculate it is a front-runner for this year’s Oscars. Although the film has been getting amazing reviews, there are many people that see the exact opposite. The film has been polarizing to many, some seeing it as a masterpiece while others feeling like it is a waste of time. Personally I fall in the middle. I don’t think the film is a complete waste of time, and I don’t think it is a masterpiece. A Star is Born to me is a solid effort from both Gaga and Cooper, that had some great moments while still having some glaring missteps.
I want to start off by talking about what the film did right. As the film starts off, I immediately noticed the very intimate direction Cooper was taking the cinematography. At first I felt it to be a bit much. However, as it went on, I started to appreciate this aspect of the film. I feel like it worked best especially seeing it in a theater. You see from the concert scenes these very close shots with the camera shaking left and right, which just lets you feel the intensity of Jackson Maine’s playing. This intimate way of shooting the film added to the audience’s connection to the characters. It gave a chance for the viewers to notice small mannerisms of the characters that wouldn’t have been noticed otherwise. Another aspect I really enjoyed was Cooper’s portrayal of Jackson Maine. His acting was spot on. You were able to tell whether or not he had been drinking just through the way he acted. You didn’t need to be told he was currently drunk or not. Although, I feel like Cooper’s performance was better, I still think that Lady Gaga surprised many people including myself. I was very hesitant at first, and thought that this was just another way of getting more viewers and increasing the box office sales. But I was happy to see that I was mistaken. She did a great job. I did feel like she struggled on certain parts of the film, where Cooper didnt, but she still pulled off an impressive performance and it did not hinder the film in any way.
Now I want to talk about an aspect of the film that is both a positive and it’s biggest negative. That is the way the story was structured and told. A Star is Born is presented in a very disjointed and abrupt fashion. It is not afraid to jump ahead in time without notice. Similar to the way last year’s The Florida Project constructed it’s story. The difference between these two films is that The Florida project used this aspect to elevate the character’s and bring the audience closer to them. Whereas A Star is Born lacked in that aspect. I do enjoy this type of story telling greatly. Because it allows for the audience member to infer what is happening. It is a bold way of making a movie because some aspects may go over the heads of certain viewers. However, what should have been utilized with this type of story telling is more focus on the relationship between Ally and Jack. We saw a big emphasis on their relationship during the start of the film, and then it was pushed to the side in favor of the rise of Ally. I understand her rise and subsequently Jack’s demise is an integral part of the film. However, there needed to be more focus on the relationship of the characters. This change would have had an even bigger impact on the viewers in regards to the tragic climax. I just wished that Cooper would have utilized the middle section of the film better to fully build the character’s so that the audience members are able to feel the weight of the outcome of this film.
Obviously I can’t write up this review without mentioning the ending. It was unexpected to be honest. The way it was shot and presented was great, because it hit me like a truck. Jack starting off with cooking Charlie a huge piece of steak, as one last goodbye. The continuous juxtaposition with Ally’s final show and Jack’s last night was perfect. On one side, we see a colorful and loud performance that is full of energy and light. While on the other, we see Jack’s lonely garage that is devoid of any color or sound. The ending was a sad one, and it was done well. However…. I did not understand where Cooper wanted to go with this ending. The overall theme is lost on me. Although it was made well, there was nothing underneath that ending to support it. There needed to be a message that the viewers could grab on to. Furthermore, I wished their would have been more elaboration on the roles of addiction and the people around those that are suffering that addiction. In the film, we constantly see friends and family of Jack just dismiss his addiction as “that’s how he is”, and never trying to help him. Yet, when he commits suicide they just say “its his fault, not us”. I understand that it is difficult to sometimes see what the other person is experiencing. But with Jack’s case it was obvious, and I wished that this aspect was addressed. Because it just makes it seem like people with these tendencies and addictions cant be helped, and that they are doomed to the same fate as Jack.
All in all, A Star is Born is a solid effort. Many things were done right in this film. From the close and intimate camera work, to the electrifying performances that heightened the adrenaline of the film. I think we can all agree that the film gives off a strong impact. Where I am disappointed is the focus of the film. It’s focus is as disjointed as the film’s story was told. It tries to bring up key aspects of the characters like for example Jack’s tinnitus, but it just doesn’t go anywhere with it. It just leaves it hanging which is a damn shame since I feel like with more refinement the film could have been in my eyes the great film everyone sees. As for me, I think it is a good film. Nothing less, and nothing more. You should definitely experience the film. And you might not be as annoyed from the aspects I criticized. Nevertheless, the film is a solid debut from Cooper, and I hope he can use this momentum to make something even better.