“Maybe It’s Time To Let the Old Ways Die”
Imagine sitting front row at a concert as the drums pound and you feel the vibrations in your body followed promptly by the eclectic sound of a guitar ringing in your ears as the crowd screams around you. It’s something that can only be experienced in person and yet Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut puts you in that front seat through some of the best music heard from a movie in the past few years. While that direction and attention to detail is appreciate, it is also graciously supplemented by an engaging story, fantastic performances by Cooper and Lady Gaga, and a message that will resonate with audiences for years to come. Even though A Star Is Born may be a remake, it is one done with a unique vision and direction proving that some movies and can be remade with the right intention.
A Star Is Born follows the story of Jackson Maine, (Bradley Cooper) an alcoholic and drug addict who is a world renowned singer selling out numerous concerts, as he meets Ally, (Lady Gaga) a shy yet audacious singer trying to find a break for herself. As the two meet, and their careers start to intertwine with each other drama undoubtedly unfolds as they deal with how the music industry treats and their own burgeoning demons.
Both Cooper and Gaga do a phenomenal job in this movie. While Cooper has been known for more loud and boisterous roles, he plays a more somber character this time, one that is riddled with complexities and issues but a passion for music. There is a sympathetic nature as you watch his character deal with addiction yet trying to reach out to Ally and make her happy in the course of their relationship and her career. Cooper portrays Jackson with alacrity, able to combine the drunken characteristics but also able to lead to more quieter moments that show the humanness of his character.
However, it is Gaga who steals the show in her portrayal of Ally. Ally is not a character who takes crap from anyone and is a strong protagonist in her own right. She may start off shy and timid within the first ten minutes, but we quickly learn there is some ferocity to her as she is not afraid to call people out on who they truly are and conform to what others want her to be. Gaga is terrific at portraying the progression from shy drag queen singer in a bar to a rising start selling out her own concerts. She commands the screen through the more emotional parts of the film and is easily the most dynamic character I have seen this year. Her performance is one I definitely guarantee an Oscar nomination come award season.
The supporting cast is also amazing and adds a lot of dimension to the films narrative. Whether its Ally’s father (Andrew Dice Clay) and is passion for his daughter or Jackson’s brother (Sam Elliott) who struggles with seeing Jackson rise to fame, no character is left wasted.
The music in this film, as I mentioned earlier, is presented in such a unique way and vision. All of the music was filmed live, so the deafening sounds of concerts and the vibrations you feel pulsing through your heart feel utterly real and engaging. The sound design and sound mixing of this movie help enthrall you into the concert experience making you actually feel like a member of the crowd at a sold out concert. Whether it is a hard rock n roll song or a quiet piano piece each song feels palpable as if you are standing next to Jackson and Ally listening in on their work.
Lady Gaga has been renowned for her singing and A Star is Born uses that talent to its full extent. When Ally first breaks out on a stage and sings, it is powerful and emotional sending goosebumps down your skin. No part of Gaga’s talent is left unchecked ranging from emotional slower songs to upbeat pop songs, every musical number by Gaga feels so beautiful and is able to be captured deftly by Cooper’s direction. And while Cooper also does an excellent job in his musical numbers, Gaga is the clear winner for musical talent.
The story unfolds in a dramatic and emotional way following all the steps of Jackson and Ally’s relationship. From the moment they meet, you feel the love circulating between them and its as if you are a fly on the wall peeking in on their relationship. The chemistry between them is so real and palpable, you hate to see them argue and fight as the plot progresses. It warms your heart and breaks it at times, sending you on an excellently crafted narrative that is able to balance both aspects of its leads.
The movie also takes its time to delve into the themes of the real world and how the world may treat up and coming stars. As Jackson coaches and guides Ally on her path to stardom, he encourages her to never lose what makes her special even though people will try to take it away. It speaks volume to how we treat stardom in our world and adds a new dimension and perspective to not only the music industry, but to anyone looking to make a big break in society.
While the plot starts off strong in its first act, it does falter at times in its second act. As Ally’s career starts to take off, there are some parts that feel rushed and other parts that tend to drag. There are times when the movie wants you to feel time has passed but it never truly feels like that. Some character moments between Ally and Jackson feel slow as you can predict the outcome, yet the film lingers on the buildup a little too much. Likewise, some moments do not have enough buildup and kind of just happen leaving me a bit perplexed. These moments were few, but did make the movie drag a little too long.
However, Cooper is able to pull everything together in the last act of the film with a buildup so well crafted that the climax provides equally shocking and emotional for those that don’t know the story’s famous ending. It is in the direction that Cooper shines, lingering on smaller moments to help everything align seamlessly at the conclusion. It’s one that hasn’t been able to leave my mind, especially with the final musical number that provides all the raw emotion that the film puts you through and boasts out to leave you in tears.
With some of the best music in a film since La La Land, Cooper creates a dynamic narrative filled with rich characters and emotional arcs to deliver one of the best movies of 2018. A Star is Born gives equal representation to both Jackson and Ally and allows you to feel as if you have been watching real events and Gaga’s performance is so palpable that I would love to see her in more roles. The music brings you in and is a soundtrack I will listen to constantly until it is nominated at Oscars. Even though the plot misses a few steps in the middle, it is all brought around to deliver its emotional conclusion that will stay with you for weeks to come. If Bradley Cooper continues to make films like this, he has got a great career in directing ahead of him. Definitely go see this film if you can, as it is one story you won’t forget.