A Star Is Born (2018)
Director – Bradley Cooper
Writer – Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
Starring – Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
Rating – R
Genre – Drama, Music, Romance
Metascore – 88/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 91%
Since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, A Star is Born has been heralded as a contender for Best Picture. As a result, my expectations were high. Just as Ally (Lady Gaga) sings, “We’re far from the shallow now,” I expected a story of depth and intensity. But after an overly long 2 hours, I left the theater underwhelmed.
A Star is Born is a film that keeps being made for the next generation. Bradley Cooper took on the laborious challenge of capturing the essence of the prior films while making his entry unique to our contemporary contexts. In many ways, Cooper succeeds; in others, he does not. While the primary success of his rendition is his acting chops along with Lady Gaga’s, the primary failures are the film’s unachieved ambition and its challenging length.
As an actor, Lady Gaga has what it takes to act with the best, including Bradley Cooper himself. Her emotional range, relatability, and display of internal conflict were all clearly evident in her portrayal of Ally. Meanwhile, I can think of very few actors who could play the role of Jackson Maine, a superstar, alcoholic, and drug addict, with the intense poise and emotional anguish of Cooper. Jack is a suave but troubled man, bent toward self-destruction. However, I struggled to understand his character’s motivation. The screenplay hinted at some possible motivations, such as jealousy, but none rose to the surface as primary. It seemed like Jack was just inherently self-destructive and, contrary to Lady Gaga’s personal mental health awareness advocacy, the film doesn’t offer any hopeful solutions to his problem.
Sadly, the most noticeable shortcoming of this film is its length. There are films with 2 hour long runtimes that leave you breathless, shocked at how quickly time has passed. But there are other films that cause you to check your watch a time or two midway through. A Star Is Born struggled in this regard for several reasons. First, it allowed too many characters and their relationships to crowd the picture. Even though the core cast was small, the primary relationship viewers most deeply care about is not tight-knit enough. For example, Ramon is a friend of Ally, but he has no relationship with Jack; conversely, Ally’s father interacts with Jack both positively and negatively, which gives Ally’s father a more meaningful and impactful role in the film. Second, the story paused for too long here and there. Jack sings a song at the bar near the beginning of the film, but this doesn’t do much. We already know Jack feels drawn to Ally, and we already know Ally feels drawn to Jack. The song doesn’t contribute to anything but the length of the film and soundtrack. Lastly, the film solves minor conflicts between characters with quick, shallow resolutions.
They say good artists borrow but great artists steal. 2018’s A Star Is Born is an instance of good artists borrowing. And for that, I commend Cooper and Lady Gaga.
Author: Matt Welborn