A Star is Born (R)

One cannot discuss A Star is Born without first reviewing the history of this remake. If you hadn’t heard, just for a bit of trivia, since the time of the movie’s release it was rumored that the story was inspired by the real-life marriage of the legendary Barbara Stanwyck (If you have to google Barbara Stanwyck or never seen or heard of Stella Dallas I just feel sorry for you.) and her first husband, Frank Fay. The original version (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March was the first all color film to be nominated for an Oscar award. The 1954 version starred Judy Garland and James Mason. This is the version I saw first and it took me many years after its release to be remotely interested in the 1976 version starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. I’ve never seen it, by the way. Not that I can recall. I’ve been a “remake snob” for a very long time. So let us continue from there.

Directed and co-written by Bradley Cooper, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper A Star is Born (2018) tells the story of a famous musician/singer/songwriter who helps a young up and coming singer/song writer find fame as his own career declines due to aging and alcoholism. This movie revives and modernizes the story for a new generation. I mean, it’s been 42 years since the last reincarnation, so I’ll allow it.

Talk about a passion project – Bradley Cooper not only directed, co-wrote and starred in this movie, he took guitar lessons for about a year and a half, piano lessons, singing lessons AND wrote three of the film’s original songs. He poured himself into this project and it shows. It was brilliant of Cooper to modernize this version through original music, and the addition of Gaga and some drag queens brings it right up to the present day and pushes it over the top.

Cooper does a great job in his directorial debut. A Star is Born feels like an actual biopic/documentary.

The writing is fine. This struggle-love scenario annoyed the heck out of me but made for a great anti-love story. A broken man with a woman who both think it’s up to her to fix and save him. (If she asked if he was alright one more damn time…) Red flags galore and she just plunges right into it after telling herself she knows better. The episode leading up to the proposal was absolutely outrageous and the fact that she said yes so soon after that incident was ridiculous. She couldn’t even do her job without worrying about this man/child. The things we will put up with in the name of love. A Star is Born is a cautionary tale to everyone that you cannot fix another person, no matter how much you love them. Young people everywhere need to watch and learn from this film.

The acting is great; Cooper as this surly, drunk who drops f bombs all day long (if they cut all the f words from his dialogue the movie might have had a shorter run time) and Gaga as this up and coming star trying not to fall for this drunk. There were points in this movie where they kissed and Cooper was so convincing it turned my stomach because I was imagining what he must smell like with all the whiskey and cigarettes. (Blech! The first time they “slept together” was downright disgusting.) Gaga and Cooper have terrific on-screen chemistry. They played off one another extremely well. This was a perfect vehicle for Gaga as she owns this role from the first scene to the last.

The music is original and enjoyable. Good, I wouldn’t call it great. It just didn’t stir me in that way that great songs in movies do at times. I wasn’t moved to tears or get all the feels. It wasn’t The Greatest Showman-great. I know that’s a high bar to set musically, but if you’re going to give me original music in a movie, I want to be moved. I’ll Never Love Again, while a perfect fit and summary of the entire relationship/movie sounded very “Whitney Houston” to me.

Building this movie up as a contender for an Oscar, saving it for release closer to the end of the year, hyping it for over a year indicates that “the powers that be” have high hopes for this project to be nominated for an award or two. It may be wildly popular because there is original music and Gaga, but this is the kickoff of award season contenders so we have a long way to go and a lot of movies to see before anything is decided. I wish Cooper and Gaga well.

A Star is Born earned 8 bloops out of 10. It is a great movie that should not be missed. It runs a bit long at 2 hours 15 minutes, but the music and singing are enjoyable and the acting is tight. Cooper did an outstanding job wearing the many hats he did and Gaga delivers excellence.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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