‘A Star Is Born’ Is Fantastic, but the True Star is Sam Elliott

Lady Gaga headlines her first film and Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut in the remake of A Star Is Born. The film is about a veteran country singer named Jackson Maine (Cooper) who takes an unknown singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) under his wing and watches her star rise while his takes a downward turn due to his ongoing battle with alcohol and drugs. It took many years for this version of A Star is Born to hit the big screen and I am happy to report that it was worth the wait. Here is a brief plot synopsis.

One night after his concert, singer Jackson Maine is so desperate for a drink that he ends up going to a bar and watches a singer perform Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”. Even though he is drunk, he realizes that the woman has talent. He meets her after the show and finds out that her name is Ally. Over the course of the rest of the night, he finds out more about her, while doing his best to deflect any questions she has about him. In a parking lot, Maine hears Ally sing part of a song she wrote and within 24 hours convinces her to attend his next concert. To Ally’s surprise, he has already done an arrangement of the song from the parking lot and makes her come on stage to sing it with him. Ally becomes an overnight sensation (thanks to social media) and Maine has Ally join the tour, even letting her sing a few of her own songs. Her talent catches the eye of a record producer, who offers Ally a contract. Maine is not thrilled with this, but supports Ally as she follows her dream. As to avoid spoilers, I will not talk anymore about the plot, but here are my thoughts on the film.

The Great

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are absolutely electric in this film. There is a real strong chemistry between the two and you become invested in their story because of it. Cooper plays an even-keeled fading country singer, who has a very reflective demeanor throughout most of the film. I loved the way he delivered lines as he came across (when he was sober) as someone that never wasted a word and was always thinking about what his next word would be. There was never a scene where I thought Cooper was overacting or was not genuine to the portrayal of his character. Lady Gaga is just as strong. In the beginning of the film, you see a singer who has been overlooked because of her appearance and once she gets her chance, her character’s confidence grows, but she never forgets who helped get her to where she is and she never has an “Oscar-Bait” scene where she has a massive tantrum or meltdown. The characters do argue and don’t always see eye-to-eye, but that just makes their relationship more genuine. It’s excellent work by both actors.

While Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga get all the buzz, there is an actor in this film that is getting overlooked and that is Sam Elliott. He gives an absolute master class in acting with his screen time in this film. His character is the emotional rock for both Cooper and Gaga and he knows when to support them and when to call Cooper’s character out on his B.S. Sam Elliott is an actor that instantly makes a film better by his mere presence, but he gives a textured performance that I think is deserving of an Oscar and I hope he gets recognized.

There is a standout song in this film and that is “Shallow” (which was used in the trailer for the film). A Star is Born’s success rests on this song as you have to believe in all the times Ally was passed over and rejected by the time she sings it at the end of the first act, which is a lot to ask of a song and an actress (especially when this scene happens so early in the film), but it is the highlight moment of the film when this song gets sung. The song is sure to get noticed come Oscar time and I’ll make the call now that it wins Best Original Song.

The Good

The supporting cast is great with strong performances by Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle and Rafi Gavron. Dice Clay’s character keeps referencing Sinatra to everyone’s amusement, but when his daughter gets embarrassed by Maine, he makes sure to lay into Maine about the stunt he pulled on his daughter like any stand-up dad would. Chappelle is more reflective playing a retired musician who gives a speech about retiring and getting off the road (which is just great casting as it semi-mirrors Chappelle’s career) and Rafi Gavron plays the manager who says things that the characters may not want to hear, but is accurate in what he says. Strong work all around.

The music in general is good in this film. I mentioned “Shallow” being the stand-out, but Cooper singing songs called “Maybe It’s Time” and “Black Eyes” as well as Lady Gaga’s rendition of “La Vie en Rose” fit perfectly with the film.

My One Quibble

The 11 o’clock number in the film is “I’ll Never Love Again”. It is a good song, but it needed to be great and it just doesn’t quite hit the mark. I like to use The Bodyguard as an example of a film that does this correctly. The best song from that film was Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You”, which is how the film ends. “I’ll Never Love Again” tries to attain that, but it is just not memorable enough (in my opinion) to effectively end the movie. It is a good song and Lady Gaga gives it her all with her powerhouse vocals, but it will not go down as being considered the best song in the movie, which is what it needed to be.

Overall

A Star Is Born is an excellent film and one that both audiences and critics will enjoy. As mentioned above, the chemistry is great, the soundtrack is excellent and it has an Oscar-calibre performance from Sam Elliott. I give A Star is Born 4 out of 4 stars.

Fun Fact

Clint Eastwood and Beyonce were attached to the film in its early development as well as actors like Christian Bale, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise. The project did not pick up steam until Cooper signed on in March 2016 and then Lady Gaga signed on later that August.

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