A Star is Born, co-written and directed by Bradley Cooper, has at its core an uplifting, chemistry-imbued relationship that keeps the film forever feeling like a meaningful, endearing watch. Two strong lead performances and a story that is light in scale but heavy with themes and emotion also played an integral part in making my time with the film feeling worthwhile. I at all times felt engaged with the characters on-screen and was eager to see where their journey would lead. I think my only issue with the film would be the depth of exploration for the characters as individuals, but I’ll of course touch upon that in greater detail in my review. So, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to A Star is Born, so let’s dispense with this rambling introduction and get to the review itself.
Jackson Maine – played by Bradley Cooper – is a highly successful musician who is plagued by demons such as alcoholism and loneliness. However, one night he comes across Ally – played by Lady Gaga – a small time singer who immediately captures his heart and his creative soul. Jackson helps launch Ally’s career but at the same time his begins to implode as his demons begin to takeover. Their relationship will go through extreme hardship and it might not survive the obstacles it has before it.
It’s in the relationship between the film’s two lead characters that it shines. The scene in which the first two meet sits vividly in my memory. Watching as Jackson Maine sees Ally for the first time and his tiered, distant face lights up and he can’t – nor does he want to – take his eyes off her. From there on there’s a significant portion of time where we get one joyful, enchanting scene after the next. Simply existing with the two of them as they get to know one another, and they begin to form little connections that go onto grow into unbreakable bonds is truly delightful.
This is made all the more enjoyable through the fantastic chemistry that is on show between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. The film wouldn’t be able to achieve what it does without the two of them working in tandem to bring the characters to life and then have them work so well with one another. When Jackson looks into Ally’s eyes or Ally sees Jackson perform so effortlessly in front of a sold-out crowd, you really get the sense that these are two people who are infatuated with each other. The real-life chemistry feels real and thus so does the fictitious one.
And the moments when I enjoyed being a part of Ally and Jackson’s journey the most was in the quieter more intimate moments. For me, A Star is Born was a film with a pace that at times was too fast. While it meant there were never any lulls in what was happening, it also meant there wasn’t a lot of time for things to slow down and leave space for the more emotionally nuanced moments to exist.
There were certainly times where the film slowed things down and let the moment purely be about the two of them just sharing in each other’s funny little relationship quirks. These were some of my favourite times with the film. Being there and sharing in the journey of those little moments helped to further my already strong connection to two people I cared about and was eager to see succeed.
But the problem that did become more the case as the film went on (particularly in the second act I feel) is that the film crammed in so much and moved at such an unnecessarily fast pace that a lot of the time I felt the finer details were being either rushed past or in certain cases overlooked. And the reason I feel the pace to be unnecessary was because of the length of the film. Clocking in a 136-minuntes, the film had more than enough time to let things breathe and to take a little time for the quieter more intimate moments – because again, those moments are so inviting and lovely to share in.
And this plays into my main gripe with the film and that’s with the handling of Jackson and Ally as individuals. You see, while the film does a great job of exploring and giving time to them as a couple, I felt on their own there was an exploration of certain personal elements that was missing.
Take Jackson for example: He has some serious demons that he wrestles with everyday and often loses to. His alcoholism, his depression, his struggle to come to terms with the path of his family, and ultimately his loneliness (before Ally comes into his life) all lead him to a very broken man. You could do a whole film just following a person with problems like this and I imagine it would be quite compelling. But with in the larger scope of A Star is Born, it feels as if a lot of the subtext and finer details get passed by. I didn’t feel it was as effective later on when Jackson’s issues become worse because I didn’t feel the film had done a good enough job of exploring them in the first place.
I’m not saying the overall handling of the characters is bad, because it isn’t. There are some incredibly rich and nuanced characters in this film. I suppose my complaints are coming from a place where I felt it did such a good job in one aspect, that I wish it had done the same for all of them.
But what can’t ever be said to be lacking in this film are the performances. Across the board, A Star is born boasts a talented cast; all who more than bring their talent to the screen. But of course, it is the lead performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga that standout. Cooper is an actor who has continued to grow and slowly develop into an actor whom I am always eager to see the emotional depths he’ll mine in service of the character he’s playing, and A Star is Born is no different. Cooper’s character is troubled (as I mentioned a moment ago) and Cooper has to sink down to some dark places to find the influence within him to play those moments. It’s because of this that I think his work overall is the strongest in the film (but that opinion is not to take anything away from the other great performances in the film). It’s a performance with infinite range and one that had me completely drawn in and completely enveloped in the difficult journey of Jackson Maine.
But Bradley Cooper is fully supported (I’ll admit to my surprise) by a strong co-performance from Lady Gaga. Her very first scene didn’t instil confidence in me and I was concerned that I was in for a rough ride when it came to the performance I was about to get from her, but those concerns were quickly pushed aside. Gaga’s natural talent as a performer on-stage shines through in this film and when its time for her to disappear into the music, she does so effortlessly. But she’s also able to bring a voice to the character beyond the music and have her feel not only an equal to Cooper and his character, but someone whose journey – while only just beginning – is very exciting to watch.
This is a film that very much lived and died on the strength of its leads and when those credits rolled, it was clear that this was a film full of life and impact. I’m sure both these actor’s names will be getting tossed around during award season, and while I don’t necessarily think they’re award worthy, they are definitely still worthy of praise and attention.
There is of course one final character I have to talk about and that’s the music itself. A Star is Born is guided and influenced my its music. It gives us meaningful insights into the characters. It connects them to each other and in turn connects us to them. It lifts you up and fills you with joyful goosebumps. It’s a soundtrack full of songs I’d happily listen to again and again. Just as important as the dynamic and quality of the leads in the film were, the music also was something that needed to be done right and it absolutely was. Get ready to be adding this soundtrack to your Spotify playlist once you’ve seen the film.
The point I want to end on is about the director himself, Bradley Cooper. Like I said earlier, he’s an actor I’ve always looked forward to seeing what he’d deliver next. But now, I find myself in a place where I’m just as eager, if not more, to see what he’ll do as a director. A Star is Born isn’t a technical wonder – there’s nothing that’s necessarily difficult or wow inducing – but there’s a clear understanding and talent within Cooper for directing and I’m excited to see it grow and develop. His time working on film sets has clearly taught him much and now he more than has my attention going forward as a filmmaker and not just as a performer.
My journey with A Star is Born wasn’t an easy one. There are elements to this film that definitely bothered me, and still do now, days after seeing it. There’s something in my mind stopping me from seeing this as the truly brilliant film that everyone else seems to think it is. But… I still felt something during my time with it and it left an impact on my mind (it was small) but there was something that stuck with me, and when a film can do that… well… I have to take notice of that.
I’m of course going to recommend, A Star is Born. What’s left to say other than this is a film you’re going to want to see (probably already have) and you’re more than likely going to love. I hope you do, because the enjoyment of a good film – well there’s nothing better than that.
I’d absolutely love to know what you thought of A Star is Born and also my review of it, so please leave an opinions or feedback you may have in the comments section down below. Fancy knowing when more of my reviews go live? Follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – for all my rambling nonsense. But I’ll bring things to a close now by offering a humble thank you to you for taking the time to read my silly little site. It means so much to me. Thank you and have a fantastic day!