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Review: ‘A Star is Born’ plays an unanticipated melody (Includes first-hand account)

This film has been remade multiple times, in different languages and has generally featured compelling actors in the leading roles. This tale of discovery, stardom and disappointment is timeless, and each rendition is enriched by the individuals’ interpretation of the role. The other pivotal element of the picture is the soundtrack, which drives the relationship at the centre of the narrative. It requires performers with range as they must convey deep emotional connections as well as sing. The film being described is none other than A Star is Born.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a star, but he’s incredibly unhappy. He’s drinking so much, he can’t even enjoy the life he’s built via his talent and the support of his older brother, Bobby (Sam Elliott). One night he stumbles into a bar to feed his addiction and instead finds himself sobered by a woman with a beautiful voice. Ally (Lady Gaga) doesn’t have a lot of confidence in her abilities, but everyone that’s ever encountered her knows she’s destined for stardom. Jackson sees it immediately and flattered by an accomplished singer’s compliments, she begins to blossom. After an impromptu duet at one of Jackson’s concerts, Ally’s career skyrockets. Jackson couldn’t’ be happier for her, but old habits die hard and the road ahead is filled with avoidable potholes.

This was a monumental task for both performers. Gaga demonstrated her acting abilities on a season of the horror TV series, American Horror Story, but her character was eccentric and a close extension of her stage persona. Ally, on the other hand, is small-town, down-to-earth and in many ways shy — in other words, the complete opposite of Gaga’s public image. Yet, she radiates in Ally’s skin and connects with audiences so they are sharing in her trials and successes. Cooper took on the greater responsibility of wearing multiple hats on the production, including producer, director, star, singer and songwriter. He trained for three years to be able to do his own singing and it pays off because one can hear this heartfelt melody emanating from his lips while everything he’s meant to be feeling for Ally is written all over his face. Though even his best Sam Elliott impression still pales in comparison to the real thing.

Consequently, the soundtrack is wonderful and they’re almost definitely looking at a nomination for best song come awards season, though there are a couple from which to choose. Jackson’s theme, “Maybe it’s Time”, is deep and moving, and what he puts into it alters based on where he is in his life. Ally and Jackson’s duet, “Shallow,” is also a significant moment in the film. Then there’s Ally’s song for Jackson, “I’ll Never Love Again,” which is sung with such joy and pain simultaneously that recounting their relationship on-screen is almost unnecessary to still convey the tone.

There are some memorable, unique moments in the film, which include drag queens, a bag of frozen peas, a repurposed guitar string and an embarrassment. But the picture’s last section seems to move too quickly to its conclusion. Suddenly, time is more noticeably jumping and choices that may have stemmed from longer-term incidents are made with substantial, immediate consequences and it feels… wrong — particularly after the movie has convinced audiences to become emotionally invested in the characters and then rushes through the remainder of their journey.

Nonetheless, this is a crowd-pleaser and many may not even notice that the film cheats them of a more fulfilling ending since it already runs 135 minutes and the soundtrack is a rewarding distraction.

Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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