A Star is Born (2018)

**In this post, I discuss thoughts about the movie A Star is Born. There are spoilers for this movie in this post.**

In this movie, Jackson Maine, an established famous singer/songwriter with a drinking and drug problem discovers and falls in love with Ally, an unknown singer, and songwriter he hears singing at a drag bar.  The movie follows the two musicians who fall in love with each other, Ally’s rise to fame, and Jackson’s descent from glory and continuing down the path of drugs and alcohol abuse.  All while Jackson and Ally try to maintain the love that they have for each other.

This is the fourth movie or third remake of the film A Star is Born.  The original film came out in 1937 featuring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, then there was a musical in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and a 1976 rock musical with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.  The 2018 movie seems to take the basic story template of the other three movies from what I read.  I’ve never seen the other movies, so, I’m going to try to only focus on the 2018 film for this article. Fun fact,  originally Beyonce Knowles was attached to the project as Ally when it was initially going to be directed by Clint Eastwood.  I would have liked to see how that would have turned out, but they both left the film, and Bradley Cooper took over in 2015.

The movie for me went from I don’t really care to see this to wow, this had to be one of the best movies that I saw in 2018.  I was really impressed with the film from the cast, to the music, the way that the film was shot and overall aesthetic and pacing of the film.  Although after Ally and Jackson met, the film seemed to slow down a bit for me in the beginning but did pick up again after the two had their first song on stage as a duet.

Jackson and Ally to me, had a really believable rocky relationship

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were great together.  They both just fit really well together and felt like a troubled believable couple in love.  Bradley Cooper is excellent as a rock star starting his descent from grace.  I didn’t even need to know anything else about his back story.  From the start of the film, I understood that he was cliché of an aging rock star popping pills before the beginning of his music set.  I said cliche, and it’s been done before, but Bradley Cooper gave such a great take on this character.  He looks like his body had taken a toll with the alcohol and drugs and a lot of the times Jackson was what seems to me, hardly sober.  He had lumbered around and never spoke very clearly.  The muttering was my take on his hearing, which was starting to go on him and being inebriated.  He definitely had a look and acting down for this role.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if Jackson was able to walk or move around with out hobbling for most of the movie

Lady Gaga was a great choice to play Ally.  All of these movies seemed to use a female pop star with some sort of vocal talent be it Barbara Streisand or Judy Garland.  Lady Gaga is established as a pop music superstar and made the role of Ally believable.  She seemed to rise without any struggle with an exception for her manager Rez, but the conflict of her love for Jackson was terrific and made up for that.  The only odd reason for Ally not being a star already was that Ally had a big nose. A different choice as she looked beautiful facially to me.  Even when they should side profiles of her, her nose looked reasonable to me.

Dave Chappelle’s role could have been left out.  It’s one of those roles were the trailer pretty much showed his role screen time.

One of the more surprising things for me for this movie was Sam Elliot.  In most films, he just seems to be there to, well, be there.  I actually felt like he had a legitimate proper role as Jackson’s older brother and manager Bobby.  I got enough from his relatively short screen time to know Bobby without feeling like I’m missing something.  Being Jackson’s older brother, who tried to look out for his younger brother for as much as Jackson pushed him away, showed a lot of character from both of them.  He never backs down from his younger brother and still looked out for him, despite not giving him praise and being a little more absent from his brother’s demons than I felt he should have been.  Defiantly Bobby’s father archetype in the movie and made it difficult to watch when Jack told Bobby that he always idolized him. Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s dad Lorenzo was unrecognizable to me.  I, unfortunately, have to say that Dave Chappelle as George Noodles Stone, Jackson’s close friend and a retired musician didn’t need to be in the movie.  He was only used after Jackson was found passed out on the sidewalk near his friend’s house and a scene of Ally berating him at Noodles home. Jack proposes to Ally here as well after their fight but could have been done elsewhere with another character.

I feel Sam Elliot’s performance in this movie is award worthy.

Was this movie a musical to me, sort of.  The film is being classified as a romantic musical drama.  However, the film isn’t like any kind of typical modern or classic American movie musicals like The Greatest Showman, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story or La La Land where the actors burst into song or dance in the middle of the story.  I’m also sure that the only music that was used was during the performances on stage.  But that is ok with me, and I liked that.  The quieter that this movie was, the more I was able to focus on the story and acting itself. The soundtrack was great.  There are a lot of great songs, including Shallow, I’ll Never Love Again, and Always Remember Us This Way. The problem I have with the songs is I want to call them original, but I don’t know if they are or not. I’m going to go with they are.

The cinematography was great.  I don’t often discuss too much about how a movie is shot, but the camera placement did help move the narrative and give a POV feel for me.  Most of the time, actors on stage for a musical performance were shot from a low angle perspective, and the camera was a bit shaky.  It gave me both a feeling of being at a concert and on stage seeing a performance. When they were at TV show performances like the Grammy’s or Saturday Night Live, it felts more like I was watching the show on TV, with a more steady camera.  Aside from all of that, there are other times the cinematography was used to the story’s advantage, mainly Jackson and Ally’s story.  There was a lot of close-ups of them together, and they were always the focus, whether separate or together.  It showed me that they were meant to be in love.  I felt genuine care from both of them.  Jackson is trying to hold on to normality despite the drugs and alcohol taking over him and his actions.  Ally being in love with a man who took her under his wing and willing to stay by him even in the worst of times.

Like the other films, it ends with Jackson, after being told by Ally’s manager Rez, he is going to destroy her career, committing suicide and devastates Ally.  Jackson hung himself, and the film did foreshadow this as there were references to stories Jackson made about attempting to hanging him in the past, and nooses are seen throughout the movie.  (I won’t spoil where I saw nooses in the film, but can see they are there in the movie if you look. They are too hidden).   I was kind of having a hard time figuring out if he did this because he did not want to bring her down or he was drugged heavily.  I’m going to go with the former.  Gaga does a terrific job showing what being in love with someone who takes their life impacts the other person still alive.  The movie ends with her identifying herself as Ally Maine, singing the last song that he ever wrote, I’ll Never Love Again.  The first and only time that I can recall her using that full name.

I noticed a lot of these side profile shots.  Where the actor stood left or right and we just saw a side of their face.  With some sort of action going on, in this case, Jackson on stage while Ally is singing.  I like these shots but right now, can’t figure out its symbolism or meaning.

Have you seen any of the A Star is born movies?  Which is your favorite one?  Like comment and subscribe and thank you for reading.


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