Boy meets girl is probably the most common summary of movie plots ever. The poor lover transformed by the rich one is probably second on that list. Yet actor Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut , A Star is Born is exactly both those plots. It’s not even the first but the third version of A Star is Born. So what does it add to what is a well worn path? Well, it adds Brilliant performances, a tragic love story and a surprisingly confident directorial debut. Yet it’s a film that like its main characters almost losses it way completely under the weight of excess. Find out more in our review
Jack is an aging rock star who finds solace in pills and alcohol as he faces the long decline into both musical and existential oblivion. One-night after stumbling into a bar he discovers Ally, a singer who reinvigorates not only his music but his life. As their love story grows so too does her fame and the pressures of her career and his past demons threaten to tear them apart.
A Star is Born seeks to illustrate the life of an old worn out rocker with its opening scenes. Alcohol dependent when alone yet truly alive on stage. That is Bradley Cooper’s Jack the hardest of rockers with the greasiest of hair. He is a solid force in front and behind the camera, presenting with an earnestness and grounded quality to his tragic character. Yet it is Lady Gaga (talk to the rock about acting name perhaps?) who’s Ally is transcendent, naïve yet confident, shy yet a voice that fills a stadium not just with melody but emotion. It’s not a good singer’s performance but a defining one for her as an actress. Cooper and Gaga when they come together is special, their chemistry tangible and for everything that goes wrong with the film they remain mesmerising.
Special shout out to the criminally underused Sam Elliot too.
There are moments in A Star is Born that make it truly special. The scene when Jack and Ally sing the song ‘Shallow’ is it. A scene that is about falling in love, having trust, making music and the escape of performing. It’s all captured on screen and its moments like this when the films finds it own. There are numerous moments like these when your heart will fill and feel. It’s what makes it a good film but and there is a but the film tries to pull the same trick off one too many times and it stumbles.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly A Star is Born goes off the rails. It’s somewhere after the first compelling hour and only returns to the tracks in last act. But you can point to the things that do cause it to derail and it’s a number of stories threads that are just too much for the film to resolve in a meaningful way. It’s not simply that Jackson is an alcoholic, drug abuser, but he’s going deaf, he’s got family problems and on top of that he’s profoundly jealous and insecure about Ally’s success. Throw onto that Ally’s rising success, soulless pop music, controlling managers and family issues. All of these have to be resolved on top of the reason you’re watching the movie, their Jack and Ally’s love story. It’s all so excessive.
It doesn’t help that you spend time on SNL or The Grammys, each of these scenes have big moments but they additionally have a musical number. The end result is a far too long film and begins to feel indulgent and even a little dull. Topping out at 2 hours and 16 minutes you begin to notice the time but worse than that the film’s heart begins to feel diluted. Even things like the message of the film about ‘pop music’ is lost in its results. Worse still I suspect there was actually a much longer film that was forcefully cut down. Bradley Cooper might be a solid first time director but he clearly has been that have enabled him to make a good overly long film rather than an excellent, shorter and more focused one.
Still A Star is Born manages to stick its landing with a somewhat poignant final act which allows for it to return to what it does best.
A Star is Born Review Cheat Sheet
A Star is Born is both a film filled with truly magical, emotional moment that capture the spirit of music and a tragic love story. The problem is that it is wrapped in an excessively long and undeserved running time that feels indulgent. What we have is a problematic good film that with more focus could have been a truly excellent one. Worth seeing but be prepared to be both enthralled and bored in the same movie.
+ Great performances throughout but especially Lady Gaga
+ Some amazing music.
+Tragic and beautiful with poignant moments.
-way too long with indulgent inferior musical number.
– Too many story threads that go no where.
– Message of the film is lost.