Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Star Is Born - Review

Making a successful remake is never easy. So naturally, making the third remake of a film even remotely good might as well be impossible. Yet, Bradley Cooper and crew emerge in 2018 with a modern twist on a classic Hollywood fairy tale, that if is to be believed, will be a huge win, both critically and financially.

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) discovers -- and falls in love with -- struggling artist Ally (Lady Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

An actor turning to directing is nothing new. It’s a leap that’s been made by countless individuals over the years in fact. But for Bradley Cooper to direct a film that is so artfully crafted and authentic in its emotions is truly remarkable on a first attempt. He manages to take this fairy tale and modernize it, all without losing the classic bits that make it such a fascinating story to return to.

Of course, Cooper gets to shine in front of the camera as well as the downtrodden country rocker. It’s a quieter, more somber role, brightened only by the glowing presence of his talented co-star, Lady Gaga. While the powerhouse vocalist has acted a few times in the past, this role truly feels like coming out party as a true actress. Gaga shines as the vulnerable, and somewhat insecure, Ally, as she emerges as the titular star. Her brightest moments come when she is on the stage, belting out every note and gaining confidence as her fame grows. 

The chemistry between the two is electric. It translates into something truly hair-raising when the two finally sing together on stage for the first time, a moment that may just be one of the best cinematic moments in 2018. Their relationship feels real, a testament to Cooper’s ability to capture a naturalistic atmosphere in the big and the small moments.

The beauty of A Star Is Born extends far beyond the classic nature of the story. Due in large part to the tremendous capabilities of cinematographer Matthew Libatique, each frame is vibrant and lively, elevating the material beyond a mere remake. The live performances are enthralling, capturing a hefty experience that overtakes the senses in ways movies don’t just happen upon. The film is truly a cinematic gem that has all the trappings of an independent passion project combined with the power that big studio money brings.

A Star Is Born captures the entirely believable romance and magical qualities that make the story so timeless, and yet translates them to a more contemporary viewpoint. The emotional moments go to the furthest extremes of both high and low, but the characters are so grounded and realistic, it’s impossible not to get entranced by their connection and the journeys they both traverse. The film is not perfect, the flaws are certainly there, but they’re so miniscule that they get lost in the shuffle by the time the next song enters the picture. It’s unclear how long A Star Is Born can hold its firm grip as an Oscar favorite, but one thing is certain: the first major contender is here.

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