‘A Star is Born’ Re-Imagines Love and Sacrifice | Ro Reviews
Quick Take: A Star is Born (Star) is a cautionary tale about love, co-dependency, self-image, and one hell of an endorsement for recording film music live. Star’s rolled chemistry, charisma, and heart into an endearing story that puts the right actors together at just the right moment to tell a compelling tale that just never seem to get old.
A Star is Born weaves its love story through the cutthroat music industry visually illustrating (brilliantly) that as new stars rise, others inevitably fall with a painful honesty set to a fantastic score/soundtrack. But, if you want to see this star-crossed lovers’ tale unfold, don’t look to Verona; head to Glastonbury.
Surprisingly enough, I have to say, you’ll be glad you did.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5
A Star Is Born’s Backstory Gets an Update
Jackson Mane (Bradley Cooper) fading country-rock god and Ally (Lady Gaga) undiscovered singing phenome with hidden songwriting skills) are undoubtedly the heart, soul, and voices of A Star is Born.
Jackson’s career is in a downward spiral; possibly of his own making.
He’s living on booze and pills in between jam-packed rock festivals and soul-destroying corporate gigs that keep the lights on.
Ally’s a waitress with an interesting face, amazing vocals, and an uncanny way with words.
She’s living with her dad (Andrew Dice Clay) and living the ‘gig life’ as a singer on the side.
In search of his next drink, Jackson wanders into a drag bar just in time for Ally’s gay best friend (Anthony Ramos) to convince him to stay to hear her sing. Ally hits the stage and belts out a French ballad “La Vie en Rose” with an easy and flair that would’ve made Liza (with a Z) very proud. She seals their fate with a single full-throated high note and a coquettish look.
It’s a believable meet-cute that introduces the characters and their personalities perfectly. With minimal words, excellent secondary cast performances for transition and comic relief a clear picture of this pair and their very divergent worlds unravels at a relatively quick pace.
It’s a great opening act that sets a rhythm and tone sure to hold audiences right through to the end.
The emotion Cooper and Gaga’s bring to Jack and Ally – both separate and as a duo – is palatable. They’ll hold your attention and leave you wishing to see the moments you just know happened in-between frames. The progression of their relationship with music, and each other, never feels forced or manufactured.
You’ll be pulled in by their personalities and the ridiculous talent on full display by the end of the first act and remain invested through the final frame.
If There’s A Downside…
There’s a noticeable shift in the second act that unbalances the movie’s rhythm. As a director, Cooper does an excellent job showcasing Ally’s evolution to mainstream star and a household name. But in doing so, he unnecessarily short-changes Jackson Mane’s story and emotional arc.
We see Ally submit to being molded into a pop star and capitulating to the music machine, so-to-speak, as Jackson’s mic slowly falls silent. But the personal development between the two happens by inference. While there are impactful moments and scenes some of the threads never fully mesh.
On the on hand, the visual storytelling for Mane speaks eloquently and makes the most of every aspect of his journey that Star does hone in on. So, it’s unfortunate the potential emotional connection gets truncated in lieu of showcasing Ally in the forefront.
This decision shifts the film’s messaging away from being about them to a not-so-subliminal commentary on selling out; rather than just highlighting a new dimension of their relationship. It adds a rushed element to the storytelling that doesn’t even out again until Jackson and Ally verbally collide.
Its value as a story device is undeniable and it certainly has an emotional impact because the shift gives Jackson’s devolution a disjointed feel (deliberately so in my opinion) which does reflect what change has done to their professional connection and reveal his vulnerabilities.
Which means, all this isn’t exactly a complaint; other than to say, many second act transitions were unnecessarily rough due to the unevenness of the depth and dialogue throughout this section.
It speaks to the caliber of the performances on display that more of Jackson Mane in the forefront of the second act would’ve evened-out story flow, timeline, and most certainly led to audiences feeling flat-out gut-punched the final moments of the third act.
It should be noted that had Cooper (as director) decided to dive deeper into Jackson’s issues earlier in his story – particularly the combative relationship between him and his brother (Sam Elliot) and his home life- the emotional connection and his perspective would’ve hit even harder than it already does. It was all there to be had given Cooper’s stellar performance and so the decision to blink and go with a more palatable trigger is regrettable.
The film’s finale, however (where you’ll find my favorite song) pulls no punches. It’s a poignant last look at Ally that no description can adequately explain.
Some storylines endure even though a movie ages enough to feel dated (to some) in the viewing. So, I’ve resigned myself to remakes, reboots, redoes, and relaunches; for the most part.
The Garland and Streisand versions of a Star is Born set the bar high for any writer/director hoping to trap that magic in a new bottle for a new era. But director and co-writer Bradley Cooper’s version (re)introduces modern movie-musical lovers to an iconic trope, love and the price of fame, with grit, grace, and just a touch of the iconic.
Overall, A Star Is Born avoids falling into too many clichés and gives audiences a fresh look at highly recognizable characters and themes. It’s a startlingly grounded look at the highs and lows of love, heartbreak, and hopeless sacrifice that is sure to connect will many.
I doubt anyone will walk out of the theater without at least something positive to say and one favorite movie moment.
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