Review – A Star Is Born

If the title and premise of the new film A Star Is Born sounds familiar to you, it’s because it probably is. Bradley Cooper’s new adaptation marks the fourth re-creation of this classic film. Despite not being a stranger to the big screen, this version may be the most impactful of them all.

Believe it or not, the original version was released all the way back in 1937, starring stars of yesteryear – Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. It won an Oscar for Best Original Story, a writing category that no longer even exists, and was nominated for six others – including Best Picture.

In 1954, Judy Garland starred along with James Mason in the original remake of the film 17 years after the aforementioned original. Like the first version, it too was nominated for six Oscars.

A little more recently, the legendary Barbra Streisand starred alongside Kris Kristofferson in the second official remake back in 1976. The film was nominated for four Oscars – winning Best Original Song for “Evergreen.” However, the film itself was not as well-received by both critics and audiences as the other versions of the film, but Streisand’s popularity allowed it to achieve most of its successes through its soundtrack.

That all leads us to where we are today – 2018. A Star Is Born is back for a new generation of cult followers. Like its predecessors, this depiction of the film has rapidly gained financial success, received high praise from critics and become a “must-see” of its time.

Although the first two versions of A Star Is Born are based on going to Hollywood to become an actress, the most recent two (this one included) are about reaching stardom in the music industry. Ally (played by Lady Gaga) is a bar room singer who is performing on stage when a well-known singer named Jackson Maine (played by Bradley Cooper) drunkenly stumbles into the establishment looking for his next drink on his way to a gig of his own.

Jackson is awed by Ally’s talents and takes her under his wing. The two become friends who become lovers, and eventually marry and become a power couple. Unfortunately, Jackson can’t handle the fact that Ally’s successes have now surpassed his own, and becomes jealous of her.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lada Gaga) collaborate in love and music in A Star Is Born.

Along the way, A Star Is Born is full of memorable scenes. Some that come to mind are the scene in the shopping center parking lot with Jackson and Ally discussing the future, Jackson Browne’s fateful scene, and the heart-wrenching finale with Ally flawlessly singing “I Will Never Love Again,” which immediately took me back to Whitney Houston’s legendary performance of “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard. Yes, it’s that good.

Even though this is a story that has been told now four times and been around for over 80 years, you probably (hopefully) already know how this movie plays out by now. Even if you do, it doesn’t take away from its brilliance. This latest adaptation of A Star Is Born comes along with great timeliness, as we are still not far removed from the sudden tragic deaths of legendary rock singers/musicians like Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell. Because of this, I think the film hits home for so many music fans, as well as people in general who have lost someone from suicide. It’s unfortunately a popular topic right now, and this story comes to the masses at a perfect time to assist with the conversation on drug, alcohol and suicide prevention.

The title of the film is metaphorical in so many ways. Not only on-screen in the movie itself, with the meteoric rise to fame of Ally and the exceptional portrayal of the character by Lady Gaga, but also behind the camera as Bradley Cooper turned his directorial debut into a generational classic.

In addition, Lady Gaga herself, branching away from the microphone as a recording artist, has added influential actress to her newly updated resume. Gaga has appeared on screen before, and received critic acclamation for her role in American Horror Story in 2016, but this felt different. Her success in AHS showed the world she could act, but her performance as Ally, a struggling singer with minimal self-esteem who found herself in the right place at the right time, showed the world she was officially an actress.

Gaga is extremely impressive as Ally. All throughout this year, she has had critics buzzing from her performance in this film, and now I see why. The charismatic chemistry on-screen with her and Cooper is perfect. It’s so refreshing to see her stripped down to her true self and not the glamorous, dare I say “over the top”, pop icon that many people see her as in real life. Over the top or not, Gaga has shown the world she is a true, pure talent in everything she has done in her career thus far.

I would echo all of the above for Bradley Cooper as well. Cooper has come a long way from his days as an ensemble actor. He is absolutely a bona fide A+ list movie star. Gaga has been getting most of the raves for her performance, but I think Cooper was even better. As you watch the film, you almost forget that he is an actor portraying a musician. You can tell he put his full heart and soul into this project. Cooper wrote, starred and directed the movie. As a fellow native of Philadelphia, I’m proud to say he mastered them all. Oh yeah, he even wrote some of the songs on the phenomenal soundtrack, including one of my favorites, “Black Eyes.”

Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s the best soundtrack to accompany a great film since La La Land.  Along with “Black Eyes,” it features songs such as “Shallow” and “I’ll Never Love Again” – both of which I’d be floored if they weren’t each Oscar nominated for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture.

Interestingly enough, the previous three versions of the film gained a total of 16 Oscar nominations. My bold prediction is that Cooper’s version will get the most Oscar nominations than any other previous version of the film.  The nucleus of A Star Is Born reflects everything the Academy loves – a romantic, “red rose from concrete” tale with star power, a deep, moral lesson and huge popularity drawn from both the film itself and its exceptional music.

Don’t be fooled, though. Although this film centers on fame in the music industry, the music itself does not carry it. A Star Is Born stands on its own strong legs, with or without its fantastic soundtrack. Gaga is amazing and Bradley Cooper shines behind the camera just as much as in front of it. His extraordinary directorial lens gives this movie life, a long life that will allow it to be a classic for generations to come.

A Star Is Born is a movie that will stick with you like a catchy song you can’t get out of your head. It’s a movie people will be watching and singing songs from for a long time – or at least until its next reincarnation.

Matter Rating: 8.5/10

Oscar Scale: 10/10 (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Director, Best Cinematography)