The 2018 version of A Star is Born is a nice spin on a classic story, and features great performances from Cooper and Gaga. It’s a well-worn tale told again. It’s funny to think this is the fourth time this film has been made, with each version reflecting the period it was made in. The first version starred Janet Gaynor and Frederic March (1937). The second starred Judy Garland and James Mason (1954) and the third starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (1976). This latest version sets the story in our contemporary time and puts more of a rock/folk-type spin on the music. When it was announced that Bradley Cooper would be making his directing debut and co-starring with Lady Gaga, there was plenty of skepticism. Once great reviews started popping up, though, all eyes were suddenly on it, and I’m happy to report that the film lives up to the hype.
Plotwise, A Star is Born takes its cues from the previous films. It’s the story of a musician, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), who helps a young singer and actress, Ally (Lady Gaga) find fame, even as his career is in a downward spiral due to substance abuse and hearing loss. This is the classic “rags to riches” storyline. What makes it work is the progression we see as Jack’s condition gets worse, in contrast to Ally’s rise to fame. It makes for compelling drama.
The performances from top to bottom are genuine, and even great. Bradley Cooper comes into film with a deep grovel that fits his character’s flaws. We see Jack, fall, then rise, and fall back again. Lady Gaga impressed me as Ally, with her combination of acting character and unique musicality, which played to her strengths.
Bradley Cooper clearly has some great friends/connections as the supporting cast is all sorts of wonderful. Sam Elliott (always great to see him), plays Jack’s half brother and manager. And Dave Chappelle is one of friends. Andrew Dice Clay is Ally’s father, and so on.
There are several songs written specifically for the film by both Cooper and Gaga, and others, including, Maybe It’s Time, and Music to My Eyes. These songs have a very folk/rock vibe to them. While lyrically, they are fairly standard, Gaga does perform most of them with a lot of robust and power. Cooper actually lets Gaga take over the singing halfway through the film, signaling her rise to stardom. The songs are all tied to what Ally is feeling, and I’m glad they didn’t decide to go the “pop route” like they could have.
This 21st Century version of A Star Is Born is a good updating of a classic, and doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great drama, and if Lady Gaga wins best actress this year for her performance, I wouldn’t mind that at all.
Now playing in Hanover at The Nugget Theater Monday - Thursday at 4:00 and 6:40 PM, Friday at 4:00, 6:40, and 9:10 PM, Saturday at 1:20, 4:00, 6:40, and 9:10 PM, and Sunday at 1:20, 4:00, and 6:40 PM