Libby Wadman has this week's Friday Film Review
Since the early 2000’s there have been many serious, but unsuccessful, attempts to bring the 4th rendition of “A Star is Born” to the screen. Fortunately, for all movie goers, Bradley Cooper has finally succeeded. As director, co-writer, star, song writer and musician, Cooper shows how very talented he truly is in this latest remake of “A Star is Born”.
“A Star is Born”, originally hit theaters in 1937, then again in 1954 and 1976. One may ask, “why is it back again in 2018?” The answer is that it is a time-honored story of people with dreams, the struggles they go through to achieve them, and unconditional love. Elements that are a part of life no matter the era. In this version, Jackson Maine is a musician at the top of his game. His performances are sold out and it appears people cannot get enough of him. All is great except for an unidentified void that his music and over dependence on alcohol and drugs can’t fill. Enter Ally, a small-town kind of girl filled with many insecurities, but who has a huge voice and a huge heart and is just trying to find her place in the world. After a concert, Maine wanders into what he finds to be a rather surprising bar and sees Ally performing. The rest, as they say, is history.
The current screenplay maintains the basic story, but with updates to keep it fresh for today’s audience. What makes this version so believable and personal is Cooper’s use of his own experience with addiction and the us of struggles from Lady Gaga’s life as the basic structure for their characters. As with the past productions, there are many references made to other films, which are good fun if you are familiar with them, but unlike some of the other remakes, these Easter eggs are integrated in a meaningful way, which only adds to the depth of this screenplay. Along with the screenplay, there are several other facets making this a terrific film.
The first of these is acting. The chemistry between all of the characters, particular those of Cooper and Gaga, is incredible. Besides all being excellent actors, part of this may be due to the personal connections Cooper and Gaga have to the entire cast. Sam Elliot is compelling as Jack Maine’s much older brother, Bobby. His love for Jack never wavers despite the abuse he takes from Jack. Andrew Dice Clay puts in a solid performance as Ally’s father. A dreamer himself, he doesn’t always get it right, but he truly loves his daughter. The performances of Lady Gaga as Ally, and Bradley Cooper as Jack, are both electrifying. As the actors bare their souls, so do their characters, making their happiness, struggles and pain real and very personal for the audience.
The music, of course, is the other facet that makes this film such a pleasure to experience. Lady Gaga is who she is, a gifted song writer and a singer with a great set of pipes. Bradley Cooper has a perfect roughness to his voice that Lady Gaga describes as coming from his gut. His singing, as with hers, is truly heartfelt and when they song together, their voices blend beautifully and are capable of evoking great emotions. The songs which were written throughout the filming, by Jason Isbell, Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Lukas Nelson (Willy’s son), are more than just a soundtrack, they are as vital a character to the movie as are the stars. A story unfolds through the actions and words of the actors. In this case, the story is told not only by the actors, but by the lyrics of the songs, which are often a prophesy of things to come. With most of the songs fine-tuned during filming to fit the scene, the end result is remarkable and will have you humming or singing the music long after you leave the theater.
Bradley Cooper has much to be proud of. To be able to put together a production this powerful, in all aspects, as a first-time director is incredible. His attention to the finest of details is to be admired. There is so much to say about Cooper and this film but suffice to say Bravo!
In general, I am not very fond of remakes, but having seen all 4 versions of “A Star is Born” I can easily say, the 4th time is the charm and I’m so glad this story has made it back to the screen.
“A Star is Born” is a very emotional 2 hours and 16 minutes in length and is rated R for language, (F bombs everywhere), some sexuality and nudity and for substance abuse.
This is Libby Wadman with the Friday Film Review, sponsored by the Park City Film Series, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.