I was lucky enough to get tickets to the ‘A Star is Born’ Sky VIP preview, with my mum, and building on previous excitement towards watching this film, when the title showed I was borderline ecstatic. This film has received some incredible reviews from critics and fans; with: an incredible 9.0/10 from over 6,000 ratings on IMDb and an equally impressive 87/100 on Metacritic (which is typically a very difficult force of critics to win over with a film.) Moreover, it is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut; which is very exciting for two reasons. One: In a more general sense- it is interesting to see what kind of spin a new director will put on the film-making process to make his film unique. And, Two: Bradley Cooper is a hugely talented man that has been in the industry a very long time; so whatever he creates as the film that could: lead to a succession of more directing jobs, or just emphasis his quality within the industry; had to be good.
What is it about?
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a successful musician suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. After his most recent gig, his driver is taking him back home but when he runs out of alcohol he makes a stop over at a Drag Bar for a drink. In the bar, he witnesses the performance of Ally (Lady Gaga) an incredible young voice that is yet to be seen outside of the Drag Bar clientele. Jackson immediately takes a liking to her and the next day invites her to be in the wings at his performance. When she finally makes it there she is invited to come on stage to show her voice to the huge audience already gathered for Jackson. She instantly becomes exciting to the world as a video of their duet goes viral. But will this lead to lasting fame or will it just be an overnight glimpse at what could be? And what will Jackson’s self destructive tendencies mean for them both?
What did I think?
I was very impressed with this film. Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the deranged and also, very talented, Jackson Maine. His take on a alcoholic, drug addict made me feel real empathy for his situation, as: through all the grim acting showing the effects of his chemical abuse, he managed to portray a torturous self-knowledge of what he was doing to himself. I felt a desperate frustration building up because despite being “a real gent” in his fleeting periods of sobriety, he was tearing himself apart across the rest of his toxic life. The fact I was moved so deeply by this, clearly shows I was invested at a fundamental level with his character, and by extension the rest of the film, of which he was a defining part. Moreover, Lady Gaga (who played Ally) was something of a revelation for me. I had heard incredible things about her performance, with some putting her forward as a potential frontrunner for the leading actress Academy Award; nevertheless, I was dubious about whether her performance could live up to such high praise. Needn’t I have worried because she was excellent. The arc of her character is so wide over the course of the film, that without the superb character development Gaga shows, Ally as a character could have been a real weak point in the film. Narratively, the film was well put together and explored ideas luxuriously; but to a point where generally I felt satisfied, not overindulged or deprived. In this sense the 2 hour 15 minute running time, which from the outset may seem overly long, was just what was needed to tie all the plot points neatly together. One of my favourite parts of this film was the cinematography, and the way this was complemented by the serenely edited sound. The music plays a big part in this film and on the whole I thought it was good; however, the way the music rose and fell in relation to our place amongst the action- dictated by the sometimes smooth, often erratic movement of the cameras, was incredible. The cinematography in the festival scenes really made us feel like we were up onstage amongst the stars as the cameras were tight on people and mainly focused on: faces, instruments or looking out from that direction to the crowd. Throughout the film, I thought the close proximity of the cameras to the actors made it feel a more personal experience and added to our emotional involvement, which is generally solely dictated by the characters and the narrative. Finally, without wanting to give anything away, the ending to this film is incredibly emotionally moving and actually resulted in my removal to tears. Not in the same way as ‘Call Me by Your Name’ where the tears continued outside the cinema; however, in the moment it was quite overwhelming.
Despite the overall development of this film being quite phenomenal; at points initially, I was unsure whether I was going to love it. In some early scenes of the film, despite being of potential importance to the future plot, I didn’t fully engage with what was going on. These were predominantly, but not only, the solo scenes with Lady Gaga that began to establish her initially reluctant character. Despite being won over by her in the end, it took time for me to fully engage with her as a person. Whether this was because I took such an instant liking to Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine and I just didn’t feel the same way with Ally or because of something else, remains to be seen. However, whatever it was, it was one of the only blips in an otherwise stellar film. Finally, on a more personal note, I would have liked to have seen more of the interplay between Jackson Maine and his brother Bobby (played by Sam Elliot) as these scenes were often the most touching and I felt their more frequent use could have really added something special to the overall narrative. (However, the scenes that do make it in the film are both incredible and key turning points in the narrative.)
My Rating: 9/10
My negatives column does look quite large for this film to justify the rating of a 9; however, that is because I don’t want my negative comments to be treated flippantly so I have chosen to spend more time explaining what I mean by them. Anyway, this film is something very special that deserves to be seen on the big screen. The immersive nature of all the scenes, from those at festivals to private conversations, need the best sound system you can get find, mixed with the largest screen. Bradley Cooper has done an astounding job: writing, directing and starring; and deserves all the praise he gets, including if that translates to an Oscar early next year. I would recommend this to everyone. GO AND SEE IT!
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