‘A Star Is Born’ | Movie Review

“Is this the most remade movie ever?”

Thus wrote some sardonic Twitter troll on my timeline shortly before this remake (the fourth or fifth, depending on your interpretation of cinema history) debuted. While this story may be well worn in some people’s eyes, the filmmakers prove that a great movie can still be made from it.

This “A Star Is Born” chronicles the rise of a young musician named Ally (Lady Gaga), who gets her big break after a fading legend (Bradley Cooper) hears her sing. What follows is a movie with stardom, celebrity, selling out, addiction, and, perhaps most all, romance.

Cooper is really good as Jackson Maine, inhabiting the character in a naturalistic and subdued performance. He also proves he can sing incredibly well and shares great chemistry with Gaga.

Speaking of which, Gaga completely outclasses Cooper in her role because she is so natural on screen, an impressive feat for her first starring role in a movie. Of course her singing is fantastic, but she displays an ability to play a genuine emotion that is surprising. She is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

In addition to starring, Cooper makes his directorial debut with this film. He does good work in the role, teaming up with cinematographer Matthew Libatique to create intimacy and dynamism through the tightly framed, often handheld shots that dominate the movie, especially in the concert scenes.

Those concert scenes also work because the music is pretty fantastic. The songs are catchy, memorable and often pack an emotional wallop that makes them more effective. This may be the best soundtrack of the year.

A final role Cooper fulfilled for this movie is that of screenwriter, co-writing the script with Eric Roth and Will Fetters. This is the one area where Cooper and his team stumbles, primarily because the filmmakers fail to balance the dual stories at play.

The narrative focus of “A Star Is Born” shifts throughout, with Ally taking center stage in the first half of the movie, Jackson taking precedence shortly thereafter and Ally reclaiming her place as the central character. This lessens the emotional impact of the film because audiences have become invested in Ally more than Jackson. So, when he becomes the character we follow, the film loses emotional momentum as we have to build up more empathy for him and put our attachment to Ally aside.

Even with this issue, the emotional scenes still largely work. I felt the emotion the filmmakers were going for is not as strongly as they probably hoped. There was no gut punch moment that brought tears to my eyes, but I did have moments where my throat constricted and I felt sober while watching the film.

The screenwriters, and Cooper as director, also merit praise for how they tackle the themes of their version of “A Star Is Born.” The film explores all the issues outlined in my second paragraph in an intriguing, satisfying way. It does not do a deep dive into any of these ideas, but what it does offer is thought-provoking.

So, on the whole, “A Star Is Born” claims its place as a great remake of a familiar story. Gaga is phenomenal and Cooper isn’t far behind, as actor or director. The music works and the screenplay, while uneven, has enough redeeming qualities. Combine all that, and you have one of the best movies of the year. I give it four out of five stars.

“A Star Is Born” is rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse. It stars Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos and Dave Chappelle and runs 2 hours and 16 minutes.    

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James Moss

James is an alumni of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in mass communications and applied communications studies. While in school, he interned at two newspapers and worked at a local grocery store to pay for his education. When not working for the Republic-Times, he enjoys watching movies, reading, playing video games and spending time with his friends.
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