Film Review: A Star is Born (2018)
Following in the tradition of three other generational divas before her time, Lady Gaga took on the role of Ally, the female protagonist, in the 2018 rendition of A Star is Born, apparently a Hollywood classic. Starring alongside Bradley Cooper, in his reddest role yet, Stefani Germanotta truly deserves an Oscar for her performance here as an amateur singer turned pop star. For someone who most recently led the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga is a capital P-P-Professional, and to go from that to Ally, who, for the first half of the film, can’t sing a note without Cooper’s validation, ought to be Academy-Award winning.
And speaking of Academy-Award winning, after seeing A Star is Born, two things became very apparent to me, and that is: Shallow deserves an award for Best Original Song, and the Academy should replace their newest category of “Popular Film” with “Best Fucking Trailer”. I’m a filmbro at heart and so I like to go into the theater not having seen any trailers or spoilers, but for A Star is Born (and specifically for Shallow), you know I saw the trailer at least a hundred times before the film came out. And as a result, I went in with truly unattainable expectations that were unfortunately never gonna be met. But, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great. Was the film the stuff of my dreams and the greatest cinematic masterpiece of all fucking time? Sadly, no. Does that matter? Of course not, we still stan.
For those that haven’t already seen the film, or don’t know the general story of A Star is Born, it follows Jackson Maine (Cooper), an alcoholic Americana country star whose popularity begins to fade as his girlfriend Ally, an amateur turned pop star, begins to overshadow him. It’s a melodramatic romance set among the leather-y feels of cross-country motorcycle rides and cowboy hats, accompanied by acoustic deep-voiced Bradley singing country and the best worst pop song to ever come into existence. A Joanne sequel, perhaps? And despite that, the film still found a way to capture a nice balance between drama and comedy. Some of the my favorite scenes were in the establishing moments between Jack and Ally, like when they meet at a drag club (shoutout to Shangela and Willam!) and he peels her eyebrow off. A truly golden scene.
What one discovers upon viewing the film is that, while the premise obviously hinges on Lady Gaga’s sheer talent, the actual narrative centers around Jackson Maine and his alcoholism/drug addiction. The entire second half follows him rapidly spiraling as Ally’s popularity skyrockets, which feels weird and paternalistic in narrative. Like somehow that if she had stayed at Jack’s level, perhaps he wouldn’t have gone down this road. This is all speculation of course, but an unbearable cringe-worthy scene on a Grammy stage shows the ultimate clashing of their two story arcs. The depiction of alcoholism and drug addiction is done with fair accuracy, according to other viewers I was with, and for anyone that can relate to that storyline, it is ultimately Jack’s storyline that unleashes the tearful floodgates. With Bradley Cooper having written and directed the film, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to me that the story (as formulaic as it must be) uses Ally’s talents (and lack of personality) to drive Jack’s story forward.
Edging right along the 2.5 hour mark, A Star is Born is perhaps 45 minutes too long for its own good. The scenes with Dave Chappelle came out of left park and Cooper’s scenes with his brother (Sam Elliott) were full of incorrigible, drunken, deep, Southern twang that made their mumbling difficult to understand. But you know what, those things don’t matter. Because I still stan a legend, I stan A Star is Born. (But more specifically, I stan the trailer). Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s undeniable chemistry made up for all the film’s shortcomings, and I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, would like to see them together again in a future project.