2018 ***** 135 mins.
I have been a huge fan of A Star is Born for a very long time. From George Cukor's original 1932 film What Price Hollywood?, through the 1937, 1954, and 1976 film versions all titled A Star is Born, this is a story that never gets old, and it almost seems necessary to revisit and retell every couple decades, for a new generation. I never thought there could ever be a better version of A Star is Born than the exquisite 1954 film, also directed by George Cukor, starring Judy Garland and James Mason. Then, along came Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Their heart-wrenching, intelligent, and subtly nuanced film stands up well alongside the 1954 classic, and even gives it a run for its money. Although I still feel the 1954 film is better, it's only barely so.
On the surface, the story of A Star is Born is a simple one. An aging rock star with health, drinking, and drug problems, meets, by chance, a young woman with an incredible voice. As his career is starting to go uncontrollably downhill, he uses the last of his celebrity to boost this young woman into the spotlight. Her talent is embraced by the world, and the aging rock star will stop at nothing to make sure she succeeds. What makes the story so remarkable is the genuine love and affection you can see and feel between the two characters. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper deliver Oscar-caliber performances as Ally and Jackson, and their acting talents are only made stronger by their incredible musical talents. You'll be singing and tapping your toes to the music from this film for the rest of your life; I guarantee it.
This version of A Star is Born is so great because it doesn't underestimate its audience, and it never insults its viewer's intelligence. Scene and story transitions are expertly done in such a way that you easily follow and understand what's going on, without long, drawn-own explanatory scenes that merely state the obvious. It also succeeds in not falling into a cliche that the 1976 film tragically did. Our characters here never cheat on each other. That's a very important element of A Star is Born that makes the story so endearing. Our two main characters are completely in love with each other, and A Star is Born is about that love overcoming all obstacles. To cheapen it with infidelity is a crime that the 1976 film committed, to deadening effect.
While a lot of praise should rightfully go to Lady Gaga and her incredible talents as both a singer and an actress, let's not forget to sing the praises of our leading man and director, Bradley Cooper. Many years before this film was released, Clint Eastwood was attached to the project, and although I would have liked to seen what Eastwood would have done with the material, I'm glad Bradley Cooper was able to make his directorial debut with this project. Cooper shines as a director, and I sincerely hope he continues his career as a director. The framing, lighting, and camera movements are expertly crafted, and to pull off such an amazing directorial debut while also delivering a career-defining performance on camera is no easy task. Hats off to Bradley Cooper for his amazing achievement.
And let us not forget our incredible supporting performances. Andrew Dice Clay has never been more lovable than he is here. Sam Elliott is endearing as always, and Dave Chappelle is great in his small appearance. Everyone on screen in this film was completely committed to the project, and it shows deliciously.
As this film is now officially part of the A Star is Born family, let us sit back and enjoy it time and time again, cherishing it as we do all the other versions of this timeless story. Thank you, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, for doing the story right and giving us a film we can love for all time.
Original theatrical aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Digital)
Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.
Eric Roth + Bradley Cooper + Will Fetters
Based on a Story by
William A. Wellman and Robert Carson