A Star is Born is one of the most earnest movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is a big showbiz tragedy done without any irony. It isn’t a new story, this is the fourth version of A Star is Born, but it is incredibly well told.
Bradley Cooper directs and stars as Jackson Maine, an aging alcoholic rock star. One night after a gig he stops at the nearest open bar, which just so happens to be where Ally, a struggling singer played by Lady Gaga, is performing. The two of them spend the night together and Maine invites Ally on the road with him. At one of his concerts, he brings her onstage to sing with him, jump starting her career. But as her career takes off, his starts to come down. This is accelerated by his drinking. Still, they love each other and get married. But eventually, Maine’s demons catch up with him, leading to a tragic end.
I don’t really feel like I’m spoiling the story much, as this is the fourth version of this movie and they all follow the same arc. This movie is just incredibly well made. Gaga is fantastic as Ally. Her performance feels very natural. Cooper is likewise excellent as Maine. He is doing something with his voice that really shouldn’t work, but it somehow does. The supporting cast, namely Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay (!?!), are great as well. Elliot, playing Maine’s much older brother, is especially good.
This is a movie about two musicians, so for the movie to work the songs they sing have to up to snuff. With one exception, that is a real strength of the movie. The big number is “Shallow,” a duet the two of them sing the first time Ally is on stage, but there are several other memorable songs spread throughout.
There are really only two things in the movie that come up short for me. The first is that it seems like Cooper’s character gets the bulk of the attention. The movie is called A Star is Born, but we see more of one fading than of the other being born. It’s not that the middle section of the movie, when this is happening, is bad; it just makes her feel like a secondary concern rather than a driving force in the movie. The other is that the ending song is kind of bad. There are a lot of good songs on this soundtrack, but the one Ally sings at the end is easily the worst. That moment needed to land and the song really didn’t work for me.
I’m not going to lie, I teared up during this movie. It wasn’t during any of the Ally/Maine stuff though. It was the last interaction between Cooper and Elliott as Cooper tells him that he’s always looked up to him and Elliott desperately backs his car out of the driveway fighting back tears. Stuff with brothers always works on me and this was good stuff.