“A Star is Born” was directed by Bradley Cooper and stars Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott. The film is the fourth remake of a 1937 movie of the same name and is about a young singer with loads of talent who runs into a famous musician, and he helps her get a start in the music industry.
Though Cooper’s directorial ability had yet to be seen, the trailer and lead cast members made me very excited to see what this movie can be. The extremely positive early reviews also helped get my excitement, and even with no knowledge of the previous reiterations of this story, I came in extremely hopeful.
Above all, even with the talent in the cast and the spectacular music, the most jaw-dropping piece of this movie came through the directorial ability that Cooper holds. In his directorial debut, Cooper stuns, showing an extreme amount of precision and unique methods to storytelling that felt equal parts refreshing and exciting.
In front of the camera, Cooper is equally fantastic, acting the hell out of his character in a way I have not seen him do before. Cooper makes Jackson Maine charming, horrifying, relatable and powerful, all while bringing incredible vocals that I truly didn’t know he had in him.
Lady Gaga had a tough task sharing the screen with Cooper, especially for someone who has not yet proven to be a major acting force, but that debate can end now: Lady Gaga can act, and she gives an award-caliber performance here. She clearly brings the outstanding singing, but Lady Gaga’s dramatic performance in the film is superb, wonderfully showing the difficulties of the rise and falls of being famous.
It’s a musical, so good thing the music is spectacular, with the vocals from both leads sounding gorgeous, especially in a duet. “Shallow” is going to win every Best Song award that it comes across, and for good reason. From there, I actually enjoyed Cooper’s gritty country rock songs even more than Lady Gaga’s poppy songs throughout, something I would have never expected.
This film doesn’t live or die on its co-stars, mainly because the supporting cast is so strong around it. Elliott’s role as Cooper’s brother is the stand out, creating a dynamic between the two that was surprising and full of the proper emotion. Dave Chappelle is as great as expected in his minor role, though I do wish we got to see more of him.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what works so well about the camera work in this movie, but it just does. Matthew Libatique controls the cinematography, and the way he focuses on stills and different close-up shots made for some gorgeous frames throughout, helped along by some super slick editing.
Above all, what Cooper is able to do with making the emotion land felt like the most impressive part of the film. There are some fantastic bits of dialogue, some great moments of character development that all lead up to those beautiful, happy, sad or tragic moments, and they always land exactly how they should. The end of the film works, I get chills every time I listen to “Shallow” and that is all I could really ask for from someone in their directorial debut.
The first hour is some exceptional filmmaking and directing, the final third is also equally impactful, but I found some of the middle of the film to get a little stale. At 136 minutes, it is very hard to make every moment stand out, but it felt a bit too much like the movie was just going through the motions for much of the second act.
Though the vast majority of the dialogue is witty and impressive, there are a few scenes scattered throughout that I thought didn’t work quite as well as they should. One later on between Cooper and Elliott stands out as one, and just a small few of moments between Cooper and Lady Gaga lacked the impact I was hoping for.
“A Star is Born” delivered with terrific songs, two amazing performances from the leads and a direction that completely blew me away. This movie has a way of getting to you in a wide range of emotions, and I enjoyed it nearly every step of the way. I cannot say how it is in comparison to the original or the other remakes, I haven’t seen any of them, but “A Star is Born” is a movie that surely stands out in 2018 for being a fantastic look at the life of a superstar.
What did you think of “A Star is Born”? Comment below with your thoughts.