Yes, I am aware that this is a very late review and, the only fact that compelled me to finally put this out is the fact that it is very likely this will be in the running for a number of categories at the next months academy awards. Nevertheless, on with the review!
WARNING: Spoilers ahead
When Bradley Coopers Directorial debut with ‘A star is Born‘ hit cinemas, I was struck with illness and almost missed out, but thanks to the popularity of the flick, I managed to squeeze into a late screening. The film opens with a rip roaring song by Cooper’s character Jackson Maine and instantly demands you to stop look and listen to everything happening all at once. The effect this opening had was like cold water being poured on your face in the morning, everything feels alive and exciting, a theme that remains throughout the entirety of the feature. The fact that Jackson is very quickly revealed to be an alcoholic and substance abuser helps to prepare the audience for the eventual downfall to come. My only complaint here is that the films ending is foreshadowed a little too obviously early on, something which cheapened the emotional aspect for me, as from that moment on, I was prepared for the inevitable.
Soon after this introduction, we are introduced to Lady Gaga’s character Ally and I have to say, Gaga has grown tenfold in her acting ability since the days of her cheesy appearance in American Horror Story: Hotel. She doesn’t seem at all out of her depth, her character is relatable and feels very real and the best part of all, it hardly feels like she’s trying. If Gaga is to go on to win an academy award for her performance, it is most certainly earned, and not just a token gesture of encouragement. Ally is a ordinary girl with an ordinary job until a chance encounter with Jackson Maine one night where he stumbles across her at a Drag bar where Ally happens to be singing. After spending time together, they become romantically involved and they go on tour together. This is about the limit to where the happiness of this film goes, as, we all know the only way is down for this particular pairing.
Cooper and Gaga play brilliantly off of each other in every single scene they are involved in, the chemistry is probably the best I’ve seen in a number of years when concerning a romantic couple. However, as Jackson spirals out of control and falls ever deeper into the pit of despair, I was not convinced that anyone would have stayed by his side the way that Ally does in this film. It is in some way, refreshing, to see a woman wanting to find a solution to the problem with her partner rather than having her do the cliché walk out with her packed bags. It shows us just how much she owes her career to Jackson and what their relationship means to her. Ally goes through a transformation after encountering the would-be Antagonist of the story, a record producer named Rez who steers her away from country music (which she performed with Jackson) to Pop music, influencing her to alter her image and this is something which Jackson, and us the audience, strongly disapproves of, but nevertheless, still encourages her to do her best. The climax of the film is one of the saddest and gut wrenching I’ve witnessed in a long while. Simply because of the fact of how avoidable it all could of been. But as Jacksons manager/brother in the film states later on, it was nobodies fault but Jacksons own. The way Jacksons suicide is filmed, with the garage door doing its own version of a curtain call in the way it closes down over Jackson was heartbreakingly beautiful and simply having a shot of their dog lay loyally by the garage door was actually the part that got to me the most, as it just shows that suicide affects more than just the individual. The film soon wraps up after this, and ends with a beautiful rendition of a song by Jackson that he never got around to releasing by Ally, and ending with her announcing her stage name as Ally Maine.
After the credits, I sat for a few minutes, reflecting on what I saw, and found myself to love the film, but probably aware that I will not watch it again. Simply because, the effect this film has can only be experienced properly once. It’s not the same after the first time, as there is always that part of hope in your head that makes you believe that there may be some way out for these characters, to have them be happy and for everything to be okay. But that’s exactly the opposite of what this film is about . Cooper shows that happy endings aren’t always in all our futures, there are tragedies and sometimes, we cannot do anything about them. People get hurt every day, and sometimes, you think you aren’t a good influence on others. But when you’re gone, you find that people cared a lot more than you thought. The film at its core is about rise and fall, the music industry equalizing itself. Ally, who is the rising star from nothing and Jackson who had it all, falling into despair. The effect of these two individuals becoming romanticised made me envision two tectonic plates rubbing along one another, there is only one outcome for this story and that perhaps is the most tragic fact of all.
Now, after that depressing subject matter is over with, I need to address the music in this film. If this doesn’t win best song at the Oscars for Cooper and Gaga’s duet on ‘Shallow’ then you might as well cancel the whole thing. However, I was disappointed last year when ‘Coco’ beat ‘The Greatest Showman’ for best original song so I’m not getting my hopes up too much, as the academy have shown to be clueless in the category before. As of the time of writing the official music video for the hit stands at over 400 million views and counting and rightfully so. You were probably asking the same as me after leaving the theatre, ‘Who knew Bradley Cooper could sing like THAT?’ The guy once again proves to be one of the most underappreciated actors working today. The talent from these two is incredible. The whole soundtrack could be worthy of a review of its own, as previously stated the opening track ‘Black Eyes’ was incredible and a perfect opening for the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if a rock album was in Coopers future at some point. Just as how Gaga is a singer proving to be a quality actress, Cooper could easily pull off a singer career if he so wanted. The genius of the entire experience is credited to Cooper who not only starred in, but also directed and wrote lyrics for the movie.
In conclusion, A star is Born was a great experience, with some incredible performances, both musically and from an acting standpoint. My criticisms would have to be that the ending is too obvious from the start, and it cheapened the emotional impact for me slightly, the background characters aren’t particularly important either, seeming to react to the main duo rather than establishing their own personalities (i.e Ally’s work friend who walks out on his job with Ally only for her to go to a concert) which on the whole makes the film feel a little shallow (apologies for the pun) or fantasy-like in terms of world building.However, this sure looks to be heading into the Oscars on red hot form and I simply cant wait to see what both Gaga and Cooper do next with their newfound talents in the acting and directing roles as both are truly gifted individuals with new pathways opening for them to pursue, should they chose to do so.
Overall Rating: 8.3