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Movie Review | A Star is Born


 

Movie summary: A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. (IMDb)


The title of this film could be pretty much about its leading Lady. While Lady Gaga is already a world-famous music star, did anyone know that she was also this good an actress? It really isn't hyperbole to say that she is phenomenal, and not just during the music scenes.


In all honesty, I now want to see her in many more roles in the future. Fine, she's playing a music star which is obviously something she has more than a passing familiarity with, but she's fantastic in the quieter, more emotional scenes too and really shows off her range across the events of the movie.


Bradley Cooper is almost as good, which might sound like faint praise after the above, but he'd be the star performer in most other movies. I've always viewed Cooper as someone who is just to recognisable to really disappear into a role, but this is comfortably the best performance I've ever seen from him and you completely accept him as an alcoholic rock star.


Having said that, the character slurring his words thanks to the booze may be realistic, but I'll admit to missing a line or two of dialogue as a result. I know that's the intention of choosing to depict alcoholism realistically, but I like to take in as much as I can from dialogue in any media and it was just a minor irritation for me that it simply wasn't possible to pick up on everything he says.


I also have to credit Cooper for making his character so likeable in spite of his serious drug and drink issues. It would've been easy to wind up with a character that might provoke distaste from an audience, but I just felt sorry for him struggling with his issues.


The supporting cast are all pretty terrific too, from the drag performers at the bar where Gaga's Ally first encounters Cooper's Jackson Maine, to Sam Elliott as Maine's brother. Rafi Gavron plays the ruthless producer well, although many won't like him after the events of A Star is Born's finale.


Another of the 'stars' is the incredible music performed by Cooper and Gaga, especially when they first perform Shallow together on-stage - one of my favourite moments in any movie this year. Cooper is surprisingly fantastic, but even he can't compare to the real music star and Gaga just kills it.


Watching her perform as Ally made me smile as much as Cooper in the image at the top of this review. It's amazing how good she is, her presence is just magnetic and I challenge anyone to not enjoy those sequences.

Literally, the only criticism I have for the music sequences is that more one of them goes on just a little and begins to feel a little indulgent. I get wanting to flaunt it if you've got it, but it's almost like the film is trying to convince us that its stars are talented when that comes across loud and clear very quickly. It's hard to make that a criticism though when the music is so good.


As for the central story of Jack discovering Ally and her becoming a superstar while he struggles with addiction, it's really well done. The execution is perfect, because it is a fairly formulaic story and would've been easy to fall into cliché, but Cooper is a good enough director in this debut showing to avoid those pitfalls.


Honestly, I didn't see the ending coming and I credit Cooper for that. Looking back at it afterwards, I wonder why I didn't expect it to turn out the way it did, but the film concentrates so much on Jack and Ally that you share their tunnel vision for each other and fail to see the obvious coming.


One final nit-pick is that A Star is Born does feel a little on the long side. I think part of it is the result of the 'indulgence' mentioned above, with certain musical sequences going on a little longer than needed, but there are also some scenes that feel like they are repeating certain points in an effort to drive them home.


This is probably a flaw of this being Bradley Cooper's first film as a director and wanting to make sure that the audience fully got what he was trying to do. I think he could've shown a little more confidence in his movie and maybe been a little more ruthless with the editing to trim it down.


Other than minor quibbles though, A Star is Born is genuinely amazing and I can see why there is already talk about Oscars despite it being tough to watch at times. The leads certainly deserve and accolades they might receive, and I think Shallow will be battling with All the Stars from Black Panther for the best original song.


A Star is Born is a fantastic film led by two award-worthy performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, both from a musical standpoint as well as an acting one. It's a little longer than it needs to be, and sometimes feels like the stars are showing off rather than performing, but those are only nit-picks of an excellent movie.

[9/10]

 
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