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Well… it’s finally come to this. It’s finally here. All of my bitching and complaining will finally be put to the test and we’re going to see if this movie is really worth all the hype.
For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, I’ve recently binged all of the A Star is Born movies. Seemingly, the most famous one, back in ’76, was my least favorite. In fact, now that I’ve seen all of them, I almost downright despise it. Not a bad movie, but it’s not my thing. However, every version prior, the ’54, ’37, and WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? original were my favorites, having a particular attachment to the ’37 version. Full disclosure, I made good on my promise to own it on Blu-ray. It’s as great as I remember.
Now that I feel fairly well-equipped to voice my initial impressions of this movie, I was not excited for it in the slightest. It looked like it was going to be a straight remake of the ’76 version, which I disliked the most. Why that one anyway? But then I started to think about it a little more. What if the filmmakers behind this remake are aware that the ’76 version had more problems and wanted to rectify them? Cooper’s a solid enough actor, though I’ve never been totally blown away by him outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but he’s alright. I can’t fully attest to Lady Gaga’s talents as an actress, but I guess it sort of makes sense. This may not be her first acting gig, but it’s certainly her first big role on the big screen, she’s a talented singer (so I’m told), so maybe a movie that focuses on her singing will have more than a few benefits. Although, now I have a slight concern. The movie’s runtime is two hours and fifteen minutes, according to IMDb, so unless this movie is that well written, I feel like I’m going to feel the runtime. I hope not. I want this to be good. At least… better than the ’76 remake.
The story looks like it’s about a drunken musician who falls in love with a young and up and coming singer helps uplift her talent to become bigger.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Lady Gaga (MUPPETS MOST WANTED  and AMERICAN HORROR STORY [2011 – ongoing]) and Bradley Cooper (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 , WAR DOGS , BURNT , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY , and the upcoming THE MULE ). In support, we have Sam Elliott (THE HERO , GRANDMA , and THE BIG LEBOWSKI ), Dave Chappelle (CON AIR  and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR ), Anthony Ramos (MONSTERS AND MEN , PATTI CAKE$ , and upcoming films GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS  and TROLLS WORLD TOUR ), and Andrew Dice Clay (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Bradley Cooper, making his directorial and screenwriting debut. Congrats, sir. Making for a red flag total of three writers, Cooper’s co-writers are Eric Roth (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON  and FORREST GUMP ) and Will Fetters (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). This film has no score, so there’s no composer. The cinematographer is Matthew Libatique, known for VENOM (2018), THE CIRCLE (2017), MONEY MONSTER (2016), STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015), IRON MAN 2 (2010), IRON MAN (2008), and the upcoming NATIVE SON (2018). Finally, the editor is Jay Cassidy, known for THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (2017) and JOY (2015).
Now is the moment of truth…
This is my honest opinion of: A STAR IS BORN
Jackson “Jack” Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a world famous musician, but has picked up an awful drinking habit. After a gig, he ventures out to a local drag bar and watched a singer perform, named Ally (Lady Gaga), who is astonishingly talented. They meet and begin a romantic relationship while simultaneously perform together to raise her star and make her a bigger name. As she becomes a mega star in her own right, Jack’s problems begin to get worse by drinking more and even taking drugs.
I can breathe a sigh of relief because the movie is actually really good. Yup, I’m saying it. Despite my reservations, this was a damn fine film.
Cooper is absolutely wonderful as Jack. He’s a drunk, as all Norman Maine characters should be, but I think he’s got a bit of a better back story than others. His mother died during childbirth, his dad died when he was thirteen, and was raised by his older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott). Both men had wildly different ideas of who their father was. Jack thought the world of his father, whereas Bobby remembered an asshole. They both grew up in a town full of nothing and essentially managed to get out because of Jack’s success as a musician. Most of this, as well as a constant state of depression, likely contributed to his drinking and the life of a famous and popular musician will likely fuel the need to drink as well. Jack is obviously a nice guy who means well. He’s gracious toward his fans, understanding when they take surprise pics of him, and even humors people when they want him to sing a song for them. Charming, funny, sympathetic, complex, an absolutely wonderful character brought to life perfectly by Cooper.
Lady Gaga! Holy shit, I never would have pegged her as a great actress, and yet, here I am impressed with her. Ally wants to be a singer, but everyone’s had a problem with her looks for one reason or another and obviously has an immense amount of talent. Hell, if it’s not the record labels making comments about her looks or how she won’t make it in the industry, it’s her own father, Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay). In about the most douchie way, he parades her in front of his friends and goes into a spiel about how talent means nothing. It’s not like the guy doesn’t mean well, he clearly loves and supports her, but he doesn’t know tact. He doesn’t know delicacy and it’s heartbreaking to see how he hurts her. But as soon as her own career takes off, like every Esther before, never lets that fame get to her head and remains a loving lover and eventual wife to Jack, making time for their marriage and making each other happy. But she doesn’t take his shit either. She won’t allow him to put her down, she encourage him to sober him up, and she continues to love him for who he is, but isn’t afraid to push him to be a better version of himself.
Let’s not forget, the music is breath-taking. And let’s just come to terms with this right here and now, this movie is getting an Oscar for its soundtrack. I won’t know for which song, but any one of them will do. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that “Shallow” will be nominated, but I personally fell in love with “I’ll Never Love Again.” I gotta say, as much as I love the previous films, this final song left me on the verge of crying. Oh yeah, context went a long way and the journey that the audience takes with Ally leading up the final scene is perfectly warranted, but that’s what great characters are supposed to do.
Finally, and I gotta be that guy again, the sound mixing is outstanding, particularly during the concert scenes. The way the audience cheers and bounces off the walls, the way the speakers blast in the stadiums, it feels like a real concert. I saw this movie at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, but I’m telling you now, I think everyone should see this at their local AMC’s Dolby Atmos, as I’m sure these scenes will sound positively divine. Dolby Atmos (despite their advertisements) are primarily good for sound rather than improved picture (that honor goes to IMAX). Guys, I can’t say this enough, I don’t have the ears to hear good sound mixing. Unless a movie has an unbelievably bad sound mix, I’ll never know when it’s just… there. Sound mixing either works or it doesn’t. But this movie did a wonderful job with what they had.
However, there are some issues that I take with the movie. Yes, most of them will be nitpicks, but I can’t get past them.
The first nitpick is that bar fight scene when Jack and Ally are having a drink together in the cop bar. Why did that need to happen? I can probably guess. It was a way of showing that Ally is tougher and more bad-ass than the Esters that came before her. But here’s the thing. She’s really not. Not being afraid to throw a punch doesn’t make someone a bad-ass by default. It means anger issues… or martial artist, which Ally is most certainly not. Anyway, the point is that I find this half-second moment pretty pointless because she never acts like that ever again in the entire movie. She never throws another punch, she never loses her temper again, it’s just a contrived bit to distinguish her from the other ASIB women and kind of fails at it. I know I shouldn’t care too much, but… yeah, I kinda do. This is a movie about the rise and fall of musicians. This ain’t Mortal Kombat, yo! Though, I’m not opting for the idea that Lady Gaga could possibly be Sonya Blade. Not the worst casting choice if she gets some training in. Fantasy thinking, ignore me.
Definitely one of the more pointless moments in the movie is with Dave Chappelle. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with Chappelle. I never watched his show, or his stand ups, unless you count his two scenes in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, but I have no problems with the dude. In fact, if this movie shows me anything, it’s that he’s actually a terrific actor. Here’s my problem with his character Noodles: he’s literally only in two scenes. When we’re introduced to him, he’s written like he’s this super important character who has had a big influence on Jack’s life. Thing is, his first appearance is close to the half-way mark and after his two scenes, he’s never seen again in the entire film. One of those two scenes is one of the trailers for the movie. Yeah, you’ve probably seen it. When he finds Jack laying in his yard and he’s all like, “Come on, man, I feel like we’ve done this before. I knew someday you’d be alright. This is the first time I’m worried about you.” The dialog may be changed a little, but that entire trailer is one of his two scenes in the movie. It’s really quite baffling. His only function in the movie was to basically pressure Jack and Ally to marry that day. Really? And it works? An entire lavish ceremony is thrown together, complete with dozens upon dozens of guests, a wedding cake, a preacher to officiate, and a nice wedding gown?! Look, I’ve never married. But I’m going to take a wild fucking guess here and say that VERY few women who have ever gotten married picked out the perfect dress IN A DAY. Something‘s telling me that shit takes some time. If they wanted to bum rush everything, then just go to town hall, have someone officiate everything and get it over with that way.
Finally, I hated that Jack insulted Ally, calling her ugly when her popularity starts shooting up. She’s dressing up and dancing like a pop star, a far cry from how they rocked out at his concerts, but that’s just how she’s evolved as an artist. Sure, someone’s going to tell me it’s all jealousy and insecurities mixed with alcohol, but we’ve seen Jack at his worst and what he looks like when he really makes bad decisions in a drunken state, so where the hell did this unlikable, unwarranted attack come from? There’s not even any real context. Maybe I filled in the gaps for myself, but I can’t get past this. He wanted her to get famous. He helped her get famous. Why does he care about the way she presents her fame? Does he have an aversion to pop? What, movie? What?
Overall, if you’re as big a fan of this franchise as I am, then this is right up there with Garland and Gaynor, and a significant improvement over the Streisand/Kristofferson version, rendering it completely obsolete, if you ask me. The characters are great, the music is great, so much of this movie is great. You feel the passion behind this project and I definitely appreciate that. I do have my problems, and I’m sure many will disagree with me. I may not agree with IMDb’s 8.5/10 (as of 10/5/2018), but I won’t argue with anyone who says they love this film. There’s far too many reasons to understand why. As for me, I love most of this movie, but I didn’t agree with every choice. Still, as a recommendation, I say this movie is a must-see. Take some time out of your day, set aside two hours and fifteen minutes and see what this movie has to offer you.
My honest rating for A STAR IS BORN: a strong 4/5
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