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Movie Review: “A Star Is Born”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

A Star Is Born

Theatrical Release: 10/5/2018

Theatrical Release: 10/5/2018

Synopsis

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is nearing the end of his prime as a rockstar. He is somewhat of a legend, but everything is not as great as it seems on the surface. He feels hollow and he is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Ally (Lady Gaga) works in a kitchen by day and is an aspiring singer by night. She has a gig where she regularly performs, but she has been unable to break into the music industry due to her appearance.

On one fateful night, Jackson discovers Ally. Despite his issues with addiction and his career being on the decline, Jackson decides to take Ally under his wing. He sees the incredible talent she has, and he instantly becomes infatuated with her. They fall for each other quickly and they could be the answer to each other’s problems. Jackson could be exactly what Ally needs to break into the music industry, but Ally may be exactly what Jackson needs to pull himself out of his dark addiction.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Bradley Cooper (+10pts)

Predictable (-4pts)

Lady Gaga (+6pts)

Ally (-4pts)

The Relationship & The Music (+10pts)

Jack’s Climax (-4pts)

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Pro: Bradley Cooper (+10pts)

Bradley Cooper was great in this movie. His singing was pretty good, and this was his directorial debut, but I am just talking about his performance here as an actor. Jack was a very damaged guy, and he was drowning in his drug and alcohol addiction. He was broken, but then Ally came along and gave him some hope.

Bradley Cooper did a fantastic job of oscillating between his character's happiness and depression. Sure, Ally made him happy, but one person could never be enough to erase the depression that he was experiencing. He had his happier moments—usually when he was with Ally—but his depression was still in the shadows of his head, and I thought Bradley Cooper did a great job with that. When the character was drunk I could see all of his pain on Bradley Cooper’s face. Similarly, when he was sober, I could see the pure joy he felt when he was with Ally. This was a very dark and complex character, and Bradley Cooper’s performance was impressive and brought this character's pain to life in the most compelling way.

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Con: Predictable (-4pts)

Now it is hard for me not to criticize this movie for being predictable. The problem here stems, in part, from the fact that this was a remake, of a remake, of a remake. In all four movies, the names and the professions varied different, but the major plot points were exactly the same. However, the filmmakers did a good job of making the story feel impactful despite its predictability, which I was not expecting. Nonetheless, it was still predictable.

Let us assume, however, that you have not seen any of the other three movies, and let us also assume that you do not know how the story goes prior to seeing this one. Even then, I feel like this story would be fairly predictable. The story was about two people who fell in love. They were in the same industry, and while one was rising to stardom, the other was falling from it. It is a pretty slow progression for both characters and the writing was on the wall for their story pretty early on. It was an interesting story, but it was a predictable one and has been done multiple times before. While this did not entirely ruin the movie, most audiences will know where the story is heading.

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Pro: Lady Gaga (+6pts)

Lady Gaga did fine in this movie. It was not an amazing performance, but she did a decent job. While she has acted before, she has not done so in a major motion picture like this one, and for her debut movie, this was pretty darn good. Her musical performances were obviously great—no surprise there—and she held her own when acting opposite Bradley Cooper.

This movie could only work if the two lead actors could pull off their characters' respective, complex stories, while also having good chemistry with one another. The chemistry was certainly there, and Lady Gaga did a pretty good job at capturing her character’s complexity. Ally was passionate about singing, but she also pretty insecure when it comes to her appearance. She saw all of Jack’s flaws, but loved him anyway. There was a lot going on inside the head of this character, and while I did not think her performance was Oscar worthy, this was certainly a demanding, dramatic performance, and Lady Gaga did a decent job with it.

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Con: Ally (-4pts)

While it had absolutely nothing to do with Lady Gaga’s performance. I found myself not really caring about Ally’s story. I did not really care about seeing her moving up in the music industry, and I did not really care about her struggle on that journey. Jack’s story was far more compelling, and I really just wanted to see more of him and their complex relationship together. Ally’s story should have been just as compelling as Jack’s. The filmmakers should have given her more of a flaw to explain her struggle, but they did not really do that. She did not feel like she really had any obstacle other than Jack, so it made her journey feel too easy, and therefore uninteresting.

I think the filmmakers needed to steer away from making her story so similar to the story from the last three versions of this movie. Decades and decades ago, this story worked. Everyone wanted to see an average person get an extremely lucky break that brought them to the top of their industry. However, in today’s world, we want to see a character who struggles with their issues, and pushes through them on their road to success. Sure, Ally paid her dues, but this was all off screen before the movie began, and once Jack noticed her, her rise to fame was pretty smooth. I do not think many audiences will connect with that, as I certainly did not, and it made her story feel kind of bland.

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Pro: The Relationship & The Music (+10pts)

I liked Jack’s story, and I thought Ally’s story needed work, but I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop on screen. They very clearly loved each other, they had somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with one another, and their career trajectories were going in opposite directions from one another. It was an interesting relationship. They both benefited from being with each other, but at the same time Jack’s career was declining at the same rate that Ally’s was inclining, and you can imagine what this would do to Jack's mindset. Despite all of that, the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was very strong, which made their characters' love believable, which in turn got me invested in seeing everything work out for them.

The music did a great job of personifying the two characters and their relationship together. The songs each characters performed before meeting each other matched their characters perfectly, but it was the songs that were written at the different stages in their relationship that tapped into the audiences' emotion so effectively. The songs were good, they were catchy, and they fit the movie so perfectly that, if you were to play the songs in the right order, it would be like listening to the very same story that the movie showed us. In my opinion, a soundtrack does not get more perfect than that.

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Con: Jack’s Climax (-4pts)

I am going to make this quick to avoid spoilers, but I did not think that the filmmakers earned Jack’s climax. The character had gone through a lot emotionally, but I felt like there was still a long way to go in order to get him where the filmmakers wanted him by the end. This was already a long movie, so I get that the filmmakers could not have added a whole lot more to this character's development, but what was shown on screen not entirely justify the ending. It was the filmmakers were reciting the alphabet from A to T one letter at a time, then just jumped from T to Z, and expected it to make sense.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (89pts)

A Star Is Born was a really good movie, but it had its problems. The filmmakers failed to give proper focus to Ally’s rise to fame. We saw plenty of it, but I never truly felt connected to it. This movie was really Jack’s story, which was very compelling, but the filmmakers seemed to skip a few steps toward the end in order to get to his climax faster. He was definitely on that path, but I just did not feel like his climax had been justified yet. The movie was also pretty predictable. Sure, this was the third remake of this story, but even if it was not, it would have been pretty easy to see where this story was heading.

There was a lot to like here. While I was not blown away by Lady Gaga's performance, I thought she did a great job in her cinematic debut. Bradley Cooper gave a truly compelling performance that had me completely hooked into his character's story. His character had so much going on and Bradley Cooper did an amazing job oscillating between the highs and lows of his character's emotional state. The music was fantastic, catchy, and it encapsulated the characters stories, as well as their relationship together. A Star Is Born was not perfect, but it had an excellent soundtrack, and it told a compelling story that most audiences will connect with on an emotional level.

Comments

Movie Whisperer from Moreton Bay, Queensland on November 13, 2018:

Can’t wait to see this one. I adore Gaga

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