A Star is Born

Best of Four Versions

         
 

09 October 2018| No Comments on A Star is Born     by Sean Chavel

 

 

It’s the showbiz melodrama that is injected with such pitch-perfect delivery and wide-eyed perception that it blows away comparisons. A Star is Born features practically perfect performances by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (who also directed), who both time and time again miraculously find the essence of the moment.

Cooper is hard-drinking country singer legend Jackson Maine who after his concert performance decides to hit a local bar – he is intrigued by the local flavor, but moreover he cannot stop drinking. He is immediately intrigued, if enraptured, by Lady Gaga as Ally, a waitress by evening and a lounge act at this drag club by twilight (the suggestion that only in the after hours does Ally really let her hair down). Lady Gaga sings the French song “La Vie En Rose” like it’s the sexiest song ever written, and within no time, Jackson is backstage so he can flatter her with compliments that are half drunken honesty and half good ol’ boy wisdom.

What Jackson is to himself, in the early scenes, is God of his own Universe. He is a bad boy, but one of those excusable bad boys, you see, because his music is powerful and he has a mystique, a sense of profundity of his music, the star quality of one who is always putting on a performance. He drinks heavily, sure, but gets loaded so he can be ecstatic while putting on a performance. And everybody is much more alive just for having the privilege of being in his company – or so he believes. He romances Lady Gaga with easy-going effervescence, and he lures her out onto the stage during one of his performances so they can sing her written song together in a duet.

It’s a fast, exciting relationship, but like anything that’s that fast and exciting, there is going to be a downward spiral when jealousy intercedes, and there’s too much booze to keep his faculties intact, and there’s too much verbal insults that spritzes out of his mouth when he was supposed to be this forever grateful guy at peace with the world. What Jackson realizes about himself while he’s with Ally long enough: He’s not really at peace with the world.

Ally’s career begins to fly on its own, but that also means Jackson is no longer the center of the universe. They could adjust the relationship, but that would mean Jackson would have to stop drinking and stop the jealous behavior. It is clear to us, but not to Lady Gaga that she would probably be better off without him, but she is forever loyal and she knows that her newfound success only exists because of him. Once she has already become a star and he has been on the wagon for at least a couple of months, she realizes he has never really seen who she is while being sober.

Yeah, it’s the fourth version of “A Star is Born” with the first one dating all the way back to 1932, with the 1954 version remains to be compelling melodrama, and then there’s the tonal mess of the 1976 version. There have been plenty of other showbiz relationship movies from the good, say “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” to the bad, say “Glitter.” Well, Cooper is some kind of amazing director who gets up close and personal with these characters, and only drops the camera back for a wide angle to encompass some comprehensive truth. Sam Elliott has always been a great, salt of the Earth presence, but this time his dialogue is so marbled within that raspy voice of his that I couldn’t always understand half of what he was saying. Other than Elliott, there are some terrific smaller performances here, too, on the peripheral (Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle).

Most showbiz musicals feature some kind of montage of records selling off the streets, people tuning in on the radio, and other “stock” genre moments. Cooper, in a shrewd directing decision that pays off, films the movie entirely within the bubble of what is happening subjectively between the two leads that is exclusively their experience. Yet it’s a large film nonetheless. We’re utterly convinced that these two are living large lives. And it’s not the only shrewd directing decision by Cooper.

“A Star is Born” is a robust, emotional roller-coaster filled with fantastic music and concert scenes. But after some key pivotal moments in the third act, the movie turns quiet, meditative and observant. It’s earned. We are quietly moved by the final scenes. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga swing for the fences here, and they both soar, spectacularly in a Hollywood drama that aims to resonate many higher truths.

137 Minutes. Rated R.

MUSICAL DRAMA / EMOTIONAL TEENS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND

Film Cousins: “A Star is Born” (1954); “New York, New York” (1977); “The Rose” (1979); “Crazy Heart” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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