A STAR IS BORN (2018)
Jackson Maine the country rock star (Bradley Cooper) walks into a bar one night for a drink (not unusual for him) and sees & hears Ally (Lady Gaga) on stage. Impressed and attracted, he helps her find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Review by Louise Keller:
The timeless story of the perils of stardom: the rise and fall of a star never ceases to mesmerize. Like the lure of the stars in the night sky. The notable things about this reimagining of the story, is its authenticity amid the heady elements of its central characters. In his impressive directing debut, Bradley Cooper and the luminous Lady Gaga soar as they catapult the film high into a sphere of contrasts, where life's extremes are on show. Electric, compelling and tender, the film is a knockout creatively and emotionally, offering a raw glimpse into today's world of celebrity.
From a dazzling overhead shot of a brightly lit stadium, the camera takes us straight into the action on stage, where Cooper's rock star Jackson is in the spotlight before thousands of adoring fans, making love to the microphone with his deep resonant voice and easy twang of the electric guitar. He is the epitome of a rock star, with messy hair and allure. Cooper morphs into the pill-popping, booze-addicted Jackson convincingly, never becoming a caricature or overplaying the excesses. We can almost taste the gin that seems to offer more rewards than applause.
Jackson's unexpected meeting with Lady Gaga's Ally in a drag bar is utterly charming offering some of the film's best scenes; watch Ally sing La Vie en Rose wearing false eyebrows, fishnet stockings and a little black number. The chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga zings - their onscreen relationship is creative, playful and passionate. Watch for the knockout scene when Jack brings Ally onstage for the first time to sing 'Shallow'. It's spine-tingling stuff. Ally goes from mousy insecure songwriter to assured titan-haired performer and star. Like - well, Lady Gaga. The beauty of her performance is that she is real. There is no vanity or pretension. The bath scene is a good example. The multi-Grammy winner shows her range and the extent of her talents. And she sings like a dream.
We are right there: backstage and on stage, intoxicated by the music, the limos, choppers and private jets. We watch the pills, the booze, the drugs. We are there for the highs and cringe through the lows, always clinging to the hope that somehow this seesawing relationship can survive. The story is fleshed out by Ally's backstory (Rafi Gavron is terrific as her manager) and gravel-voiced Sam Elliott is haunting as Jack's elder brother.
This is a very different film from those that came before - like the 1954 Judy Garland, James Mason film - or the 1976 Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson one. They were films of their time. This one is for today. Ultimately, the film rests on the magnetic relationship between Cooper and Lady Gaga. It doesn't just sizzle, it explodes. As does the film.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you had never seen any of the earlier versions of this story, you may find it engrossing enough to last its entire running time without fidgeting - but I didn't. The obvious appeal and screen attraction of the two stars - Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga - helps initially, and their performances are certainly enjoyable and authentic. Well, of course they are, both are performers in real life ... but they also engage us as the characters. Yet it's here that I start to peel away from the film, when Cooper's self destructive behaviour echoes with a dozen or more films that have trodden that path, down to the unkempt-star look.
Perhaps most disappointing in his characterisation is the lack of pathos and depth, which jumps out at us, ironically enough, in the ending.
Lady Gaga is a natural; Ally is talented and cursed with the insecurity that is talent's twin. Her face glows with natural beauty, not manufactured and not afraid of the camera's intrusions. Still, there is chemistry there and the romantic material is beautifully shot and directed. I'm not so sure about the editing, though; it tends to strive for effect.
Unintentionally, I noticed that Jack never mixes with his band, even after a huge gig; he walks off alone or with Ally. This strikes me as inauthentic and works to further remove me from the film. Besides, the plot is too thin to maintain 135 minutes, which is a run time reached only by extensions - like hair extensions, that add length but not authenticity.
But what I do applaud is the production of the performance scenes, from the small bar set to the stadium concerts. The music and sound are superb - at least if you are in a decent cinema, so make sure you are.
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A STAR IS BORN (2018) (M)
CAST: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Dave Chappelle, Rebecca Field, Michael Harney, Shangela Laquifa Wadley, William Belli, Anthony Ramos
PRODUCER: Bill Gerber, Jon Peters, Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips, Lynette Howell Taylor
DIRECTOR: Bradley Cooper
SCRIPT: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
EDITOR: Jay Cassidy
MUSIC: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Lukas Nelson, Jason Isbell, Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Diane Warren
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Karen Murphy
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow (Warner Bros)
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 18, 2017