When you know a particular review is going to be poorly received because you differ from the popular opinion, human nature dictates that you put off writing about said film for as long as possible. The time has come when I can no longer wait to share my unfavorable thoughts on the long-winded “A Star is Born,” a melodramatic, overstuffed, cornball of a movie from director (and star) Bradley Cooper.
Cooper stars as seasoned musician Jackson Maine, and man who falls in love at first listen with waitress Ally (Lady Gaga). Ally has given up on her dream to become a famous singer because every encounter she has with someone in the music business ends with them telling her that they like her voice but not her looks. Jackson not only sees her raw talent but her natural beauty as well, and the two start a passionate love affair that ends in tragedy because of course it does.
The film as a whole feels dated, and not just in its powerful white male gender roles. Jackson, a tormented alcoholic in a downward spiral, turns to the bottle even more as Ally rockets to stardom because his delicate ego just can’t handle a woman succeeding as his equal. As a female I find this tired narrative objectionable, and I’d think (or at least hope) most men would feel the same. As her star rises, his fades, and the rest of the story falls into place with the expected formulaic trajectory. Ally is either manipulated or controlled by men at every point in the story, which made my stomach churn. Even more unpleasant is the romanticized ending that treats their very definition of a toxic relationship with dreamy rose-colored glasses.
Cooper, here better behind the camera than in front of it, makes some clever (if showy) directorial choices that save the film from feeling as if it’s nothing more than a lame duck vanity project. The film’s opening is particularly well done, but then he falls into the trap of overloading the story until the whole thing fizzles. There is simply too much going on that causes the film to lose its focus. The supposed love story that’s at the heart of the picture isn’t convincing in the slightest, and that’s something I blame on the hokey dialogue as well as the actors. Where is the chemistry? Where is the passion? Where is the authenticity?
The performances here are fine, but nothing nearing awards-worthy territory. Sam Elliott , understated as Jackson’s older brother Bobby, has far too little screen time to make an impact. Gaga has her moments and is insanely charismatic, but there’s an abundance of lapses where it appears she has forgotten she’s in a Hollywood movie and is instead the guest of the week on a daytime soap opera.
The soundtrack is admittedly fantastic, but there isn’t much else to recommend about this unnecessary remake. It has very little original to say, and it places flash over substance.