A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writer: Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, Will Fetters
Remake of: A Star Is Born (1937) (and 1954 and 1976)
Cast: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin, Marlon Williams, Brandi Carlile, Ron Rifkin, Barry Shabaka Henley
Seen on: 12.10.2018

Content note: suicide

Jack (Bradley Cooper) has seen his heyday as a musician and has made his home in a slump, saturated with a lot of alcohol. That’s when he meets Ally (Lady Gaga), talented, but unknown musician. Almost convinced that she has to give up on her dreams, Ally is convinced that she is not a singer, not made for the spotlight, but rather that she is a songwriter. But Jack gives her the leg up she needs to start her career as they fall in love with each other. But as Ally’s star rises, Jack’s keeps falling.

I admit, I was doubtful regarding A Star Is Born and whether I should see it at all. But then the critics kept falling over themselves with praise and I thought, I’d give it the benefit of the doubt. Having seen it, I am not convinced that I should have let myself be swayed. I mean, I have definitely seen worse films but that doesn’t mean it’s all that good either.

The film poster showing a black and white image of Jack (Bradley Cooper) playying the guitar and Ally (Lady Gaga) sitting in front of him, leaning in for a kiss.

The film builds a lot on music, of course, and the music isn’t bad at all, at least not in the first half or so. But the plot and the script are something else. It starts with the fact that the film only passes the Bechdel-Wallace-Test on a technicality, otherwise it’s Ally alone with men all the time, as if there was only one woman in the world.

But that isn’t the film’s only fault. I was also extremely uncomfortable with the old dude who knows everything better about the young woman’s life than the young woman herself. He knows what choices she should make and how – and infuriatingly, he is always right in the end. Even when he criticizes her music as not being “pure” enough, being too flashy and not sincere enough, recommending that she go back to her roots and see the magic that happens there (it’s a message the film comes up with over and over again “the world is full of talented people, but it doesn’t have enough people who have something to say” and I, for one, believe that it’s utter crap and if anything, it’s the other way round). While the film doesn’t explicitly say he is right and she gets lost in the glitzy world of pop (and I don’t think it was necessarily the film’s intention to make that point, given that they have Lady Gaga in the leading role, the glitziest of pop singers), it does implicitly prove his point because the music just isn’t as good as soon as Ally starts making the flashy pop stuff.

Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jack (Bradley Cooper) singing together in front of a crowd.

To add insult to injury, the film then goes on to romanticize suicide, making it seem like a noble gesture and I don’t think I have to lay out why that is problematic as fuck.

Compared to this, the fact that the film is a mess regarding its information management, is but an annoyance, but annoying it is. Jack’s family history, the lack of women in the film and generally what information is given to us directly and what we have to guess from the context remained a mystery to me.

For the work of a first-time director, the film feels very self-confident in tone and style, probably the film’s biggest strength. But I couldn’t warm to it.

Jack (Bradley Cooper) facing his brother Bobby (Sam Elliott), with Ally (Lady Gaga watching in the background.

Summarizing: Didn’t work for me.

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