Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Star is Born: ***1/2 (2018)

A Star is Born features Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the fourth screen version of the story. Cooper is Jackson Maine, a country rock artist struggling with substance abuse and creative malaise. One night stumbles into a drag bar and watches Ally perform "La Vi En Rose" and is enchanted. They hit it off, Jack invites her to start performing with him onstage. They eventually get married. Heartfelt performances keep the movie afloat, an old fashioned melodrama set in today's heady entertainment climate.

The two leads keep it real all the way through. There's a natural flow to the acting and the script. The music is for the most part solid, written so it has a timeless quality. Ally starts out the movie as an aspiring singer/songwriter, she has a picture of Carol King's Tapestry on her bedroom wall. Then the music industry turns her into a pop star, a path that will sell more records. 

Supporting performances from Sam Elliot as Jack's much older brother, Dave Chappelle as his best friend, and Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's father are all great screen presences. Elliot especially, his deliveries carry great weight as he and Jack work out their longstanding conflicts. 

Lady Gaga will probably win the Oscar. As Ally she's grounded, strong, and a decent person. She never rides the coattails of Jack's fame, but goes her own way, creatively and personally.

Cooper's direction is impressive avoids excess and keeps the story moving along, almost moves too fast at times. Anyone's who's watched the prior three versions know how the story ends, as Jackson's internal world starts to come apart. Ally's manipulative manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) seems unnecessary and maybe the only cliche character in the movie, of course, he's English. 

Despite the downbeat second half, A Star is Born is an outstanding mass entertainment. Good music, acting, and story will never go out of style. 

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