Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: "A Star Is Born" is a revelation of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

A Star Is Born Review

One of the biggest delights as a cinephile is watching people step out of their comfort zones as performers or artists and try something new. Go outside the box. It's so easy for actors to be typecast. Its so easy for directors to essentially make the same film, to explore the same themes again and again. There seem to be very few people working in the business who try something new with each new film. So when you see actors trying something different or when you see actors direct something for the first time, there is something about it that is slightly absorbing.

I think, much like Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper may have found a calling he didn't realize he was looking for. As far as first time directing goes, Cooper comes off like a veteran director with "A Star Is Born." Yes, some of you may be annoyed because the song from this movie is getting lots of attention and radio play right now. But I don't care, sometimes the mainstream gets it right. If you open your mind and really look at what Cooper has presented, I think you are going to be shocked by what he pulled off. I can admit that I certainly was. 

"A Star Is Born" at first glance feels like you're typical film about musicians. Cooper plays Jackson, a legendary rock star. He meets Ally, played by Gaga singing at a bar. He is captivated by her voice. They talk, they get to know each other, they are slowly drawn to each other. Before long, Jackson wants to make music with her, and he certainly does. It unfolds like a typical musicians movie. You know what I mean. Think movies like "Ray" or "Walk The Line." Think of non-biopic films like "Rock Star." Hell, even think "School of Rock." Much like many genres, there is a laundry list of cliches that have become commonplace for this little sub-genre. Somebody finds out they can sing, they have troubled home lives. They get some big success. A big label deal comes up, forcing the singer to break their original arrangement. There is sex and drugs and rock and roll. There is rehabilitation. What's amazing about "A Star Is Born" is how gleefully Cooper plays by the rules, and how he shatters them in equal measure. You may think you've seen "A Star Is Born," but you haven't.

I've always harbored the suspicion that its got to be a hard task to both be a lead star and direct a movie at the same time. Getting a production together as a director is no easy feat all by itself, so there has to be another level of pressure when you are a lead in the movie as well. I mean, do director's direct themselves? If so, how do they even begin to do that? I don't think I'd even know where to begin. So right up front, Cooper gets lots of my respect. But on another level, its almost scary how much control Cooper shows here. Like I said, this doesn't look like the work of a first time director. I am so impressed that a part of me is suspicious that somebody else ghost directed this, yes its that masterfully made. Not only that, but Cooper went and also decided to give one of the best performances of his career. 

Then there is Lady Gaga. She's been one of those pop artists who has been slowly transitioning to acting. She's appeared a couple of times on a few seasons of "American Horror Story." That show is so inconsistent on every conceivable level that its actually difficult to judge her performance. Here, there is no judging. Gaga can act, believe it, Gaga can act. Sure, she may be pulling an Eminem from "8 Mile," and you may not like that she's merely playing a version of herself. But that doesn't mean that she doesn't breathe a certain amount of life into the character and create something powerful out of it.

Now for a musical type movie, you're probably wondering, how's the music. Well, one of the songs has been getting quite a bit of air time on the radio and I can tell you that lots of the music in the film is good. I love to collect movie soundtracks, and this is one that I will probably end up tracking down. The songs can match with the scene and the emotions almost perfectly. But the film's secret weapon is how it doesn't bend to the will of the sub-genre. It ends up being less about the rise of a singer and more about how we carry private lives within ourselves, how we may never be able to come back from pain or addiction and how terrible that is to admit. The films ends up being a much more powerful experience than expected and again, I give Cooper all the kudos I can give for his beautifully crafted film. He nailed it and best of all, he made it look easy.

FINAL GRADE: A

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