Most of us go through life with a pie-in-the-sky dream — becoming a millionaire, writing the greatest novel ever, or more appropriately for this review, becoming a music star — and realistically, the majority of us will never achieve those heights.
That might be why a movie like A Star Is Born resonates with the moviegoing public: if we’re not going to get there, then let’s at least see someone else do it. Nothing is as warm and fuzzy as a success story, and this third remake of the 1937 original film (the others were released in 1954, 1976, and now 2018) illustrates that not much has changed for nearly a century. We want to watch feel-good stories, we want to watch people succeed.
Appropriate, then, that Bradley Cooper‘s directorial debut, starring himself and pop superstar Lady Gaga, is heartfelt, sincere and takes place entirely within a dreamscape. The movie is a fairy tale.
Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, is discovered singing in a drag bar by country-music sensation Jackson Maine (Cooper), and within 24 hours, she’s up on stage with him playing to an arena crowd of thousands. In real life, this would never, ever happen, so in a sense, there needs to be a suspension of disbelief while watching. Once you’re in that mindset, it’s far easier to get wrapped up in the events of the movie.
That depends on you and your personal taste: do you like musicals? Do you like Lady Gaga? Do you like saccharine sweetness? If it’s a yes to all three, you’re going to have a blast. It’s emotional, the first release from the movie’s soundtrack, Shallow, can induce goosebumps, and the story’s arc is hopeful, unlike today’s typical cinematic cynicism.
That said, if you’re less of an aficionado of such things, you might become restless over this movie’s two-hour-plus running time. There are at least 30 minutes that could be shaved off — like a random, unnecessary interlude with Dave Chappelle side character, Noodles — but we’re taken along through every painstaking detail of Ally and Maine’s relationship.
Who knew how amazing Cooper’s voice is? Here, the four-time Academy Award nominee does everything but inhabit Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder’s body, taking on his mannerisms in every conceivable way. As an actor, Cooper has always been respectable, and now his singing chops are clearly on display. As a director, Cooper stumbles most, with paper-thin character development and tacked-on diversity like the aforementioned Chappelle segment and the drag club scenes.
Gaga exceeds expectation as the bright-eyed Ally, but as seen on TV show American Horror Story, she’s known for vamping and going that extra mile with excess. Recall that this woman showed up to an awards ceremony in a gigantic egg, and at one time wore a dress made of raw meat.
Here, she’s majorly tamped down, so there are moments where it’s like watching a lion in a cage. Sometimes her movements, line delivery and facial expressions are unnecessarily exaggerated and it feels like she’s kicking at the walls of her character. Perhaps that works in her favour since the audience falls in love with Ally almost instantly. Sure, the things she says and does may trigger an eye roll now and then, but you genuinely want her to succeed.
It’s also nice to see the real Gaga and truly comprehend what a gift her voice is.
A feel-good movie for the most part (there are some tough moments towards the end of the film), A Star Is Born is a simple story about achieving a dream. Don’t expect complexity or any in-depth exposition — it’s all about music and love. Cylinders fire in the first half, which moves quickly, and then Cooper lifts his foot off the pedal for the latter hour, when it starts to drag.
Expect this to fill up your Academy Award roster this year, and you’ll most likely catch a glimpse of Gaga walking across the Oscars stage instead of the Grammys stage in 2019.
‘A Star Is Born’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.Follow @CJancelewicz
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