+ Recommended – R, Drama (137 minutes)
I’ve got to be honest with everyone: I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to Bradley Cooper’s rendition of A Star Is Born–and not because of the cast, but because the story has been told several times leading up to the 2018 release. There have been four to date, including the newest version and while that may seem like the producers just wanted to back something familiar, almost as a guaranteed money-maker, I can denounce, with certainty, any such claims. Indeed, there’s a justifiable reason for this film to exist and why every time period deserves its own star.
A musician (Bradley Cooper), losing the battle to alcoholism and crippling tinnitus, takes interest in a particularly talented vocalist (Lady Gaga) while bar-hopping. He paves the way to fame for her even as his own life has taken a downward turn, one in which he cannot easily recover from. A majority of the plot centers around the relationship between their characters, Jackson and Ally, and how environmental factors such as substance abuse and fame can alter a person’s character. It’s a deep character study layered with emotional cues and definitive camera style.
Not only is the narrative arc heartbreaking, but it’s a topic that needs endless discussion in a society plagued by the stigma of substance abuse and depression. Many moments could have been obliterated with sketchy dialogue attempting to shoehorn in a topic as serious as the one viewers are presented with here, and yet Cooper finds a way to effectively convey what addiction does to a person and to the loved ones surrounding them. Subtle wouldn’t be a word I would use to describe most films that try to act as a catalyst for dialogue on this issue. Subtle, however, would be a word I would use to talk about the undertones of A Star Is Born. Not in the sense that the issue is rarely present, in fact, there’s alcohol in almost every scene, but rather because Cooper shows the difference between alcoholism consuming an individual and the individual consuming the alcohol.
Notably, aspects that struck a cord with me during the screening of A Star Is Born were the transitions between the concert pieces and normal scenes, when the characters are stripped of the fans and stage lights. It’s pretty clear when the camera work switches style, because it re-configures itself into a documentary-type shoot; remaining focused on the character’s faces with tight close-ups and dutch angles, almost as if the audience is sharing the stage with them. Speaking of the stage, the musical numbers are memorable and conjured a few taps out of my feet as I was wiggling in my seat. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have undeniable chemistry–an indescribable sparkle in each of their eyes, just look at any still of them from the film. Dave Chappelle and Sam Elliot support the hell out of the main cast for what little time they have on screen, and I was begging for more of them before the credits rolled.
The run-time is hefty, maybe a bit tedious, but the emotional payoff is worth the time by the end. Even if you’ve seen the story done over and over again, Cooper’s A Star Is Born is worth blocking some time off for. It’s surly not a movie that I would actively seek out multiple times, or even probably three because of how emotionally draining it is, but the quality of this entry is indisputable. Watch Bad Times at the El Royale, watch A Star Is Born. Soak up all the incredible films out now because October is turning out to be the best month for film of the entire year, thus far.