Thursday, October 11, 2018

[Review] A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are the passionate pair of musicians in this powerful rendition of A Star Is Born. The film is a poignant ballad of love and loss that soars with a haunting melody.

Cooper plays Jackson, an established country rocker who is just barely hanging in there (when we first see him he's backstage chasing pills with alcohol). One night he meets Ally (Gaga), a working-class woman with a voice that can alter the ocean's tides, but whose potential has always been turned down due to her appearance, or as she more bluntly stresses -- her nose. The two become enamored with each other's talents (and each other), and it isn't long before they embark on a tour together. But it's not all stage lights and standing ovations -- things get messy as Jackson's addiction spirals out of control, and tensions rise as Ally's career begins to outshine her co-partner.

First off, Lady Gaga absolutely kills it. She's so natural in this role and embodies Ally with depth and dimension from early on. And even though this is a down-to-earth character, Gaga's pure magnetism illuminates every scene she's in, and to no one's surprise, she absolutely revels in some show-stopping musical scenes ("Shallow"). It's a further testament to the fact that Gaga is born to perform, whether it's acting or belting out her lungs, or both at once. Bradley Cooper is excellent too, completely sinking into this grizzled role while also displaying a striking vulnerability. The supporting cast is fantastic as well. You've got Sam Elliott (definitely in his element) playing Jackson's older stoic brother, and Andrew Dice Clay who plays Ally's very Italian father, whose running joke is that he used to be able to sing as good as Frank Sinatra, except it's not a joke to him, because he actually believes it. Maybe he could? Even Dave Chappelle makes a delightful appearance.

Bradley Cooper's direction here is impressive too. Passion permeates through every scene. The sequences that are supposed to be gritty are very grittied up, and the sequences that are supposed to be glitzy are very glitzed up. And many of the smaller scenes are just as emotional and potent as the bigger ones. Narrative wise, it's a very delicate, intense, and compassionate portrayal of substance abuse and the tumult it can cause within relationships, whether it's under the spotlight or not. This modern update also shares a lot of similarities with 2016's sensational La La Land. Call it La La Land with a twang. Crazy Heart meets Beyond the Lights. A Star Is Born dives into that touchy artistic conundrum of sacrificing or attempting to hold onto your genuine roots and what makes you special while making the big break you've always longed for.

This film presents a universal cycle -- stars are perpetually being born, while others are slowly fading away or abruptly burning out. It happens each time you look up to the sky, or into the TV.

* 8.5/10 *

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