Review: “A Star is Born”

Originally published on April 12, 2019 in The Holcad Student Newspaper.

Last weekend, CPC hosted “A Star Is Born” in Mueller Theater. The film, released in October 2018, was a box office success, but I hadn’t been able to watch it until this past weekend. Since it was my first time viewing, I thought it would be fun to write a small review in hopes that I could help others decide if they would like to see the film. For those of you who have seen “A Star Is Born”, this review will hopefully spur further discussion.

I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t sure how much I would like this film. Lady Gaga is one of my favorite singers, but I wondered: can she act equally well? I can now confirm that her performance blew me away. We all know Lady Gaga as the woman who wears meat dresses and does crazy things. However, this film portrayed her in a more vulnerable light. Film critic Manohla Dargis from “The New York Times” called “A Star Is Born” an unmasking of Lady Gaga. “You can see her skin, the flutter in her veins, which brings you close to her, and can make both the actress and her character feel touchingly vulnerable,” said Dargis.

Bradley Cooper’s performance was also spectacular—and totally unexpected. I had no idea he could sing. I found it incredibly interesting to learn that Cooper wrote, directed, and starred in the film. He was able to craft exactly what he wanted out of this film.

Cooper’s production isn’t entirely new; this isn’t the first iteration of “A Star Is Born”. In fact, this is the fourth version of the popular story. I haven’t watched the other three versions, but, from what I’ve read in other reviews, this one stands its ground. It’s got a romance that we can all root for, allusions to drug and alcohol abuse, and meditations on the ill effects of becoming a celebrity.

The theme of ‘the celebrity’ is actually very interesting to think about in the context of this film. We start out with Ally (Lady Gaga) meeting Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) when she is just a waitress and he is a big-time singer on tour. However, by the end of the film, their roles are completely reversed. It is now Ally who outshines Jackson. Any feminist film critic would be thrilled to analyze that reversal more closely.

There is a lot that Cooper gets right here, but it is important to mention that there are some things about this film which are not so great. For example, at times the dialogue began to feel like an information dump. One scene comes to mind almost immediately: during his time in rehab, Jackson sits and talks about his childhood, giving the audience his life story. I’ll admit that some of this information was entirely necessary to understand the symbolism of the final scenes, but I kept wondering if all the info was completely relevant.

Overall, “A Star Is Born” left me hopeful, tearful, and happy to have spent my afternoon watching it. I can’t write this review without mentioning how much I absolutely adore the original song “Shallows” from the soundtrack. I also feel the urgent need to mention my love of Lady Gaga one more time, and to put my hopes for her return to the silver screen out into the universe. Maybe the Hollywood gods will be listening.

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