A Star Is Born written by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper and directed by Bradley Cooper (Warner Bros. Pictures, Live Nation Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, R, 136 min)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, and Dave Chappelle.
Chasing the Profound
What makes something profound? What conditions of elements must mix together to create a compelling mélange?
Surely, surprise must operate as a key element. That which is typical tends not to point toward profundity. We’ve seen it before.
It also seems as if relatability acts as a key pillar. If an artwork doesn’t feel human, it likely doesn’t pull at the emotional depths of what makes us who we are.
But, it feels like aesthetics are necessary. For something to be profound, it needs a certain level of beauty. Even if the content is disturbing, its distribution must have beauty. A sad song still needs composition. A shocking scene still need direction. Aesthetics are found in these moments.
From the first scene, it’s clear Bradley Cooper aims for the profound in his directorial debut, A Star Is Born; I’m just not entirely certain he gets there.
The Birth of a Star
A Star Is Born chronicles the rise of a burgeoning artistic talent and the diminishment of a fading rock star.
The film begins with Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) sauntering to the front of the stage for another night of rock. His consciousness navigates through a sea of booze and amphetamines as his opening notes sustain like a wall of sound throughout the amphitheater. Everyone in the audience cheers, having heard this song countless times over Maine’s years of touring.
Post show, Maine runs out of booze and demands his driver pull over at the closest watering hole. Here, at a drag bar, Maine hears the powerful voice of Ally (Lady Gaga) for the first time.
With quick cuts and close-up shots, Cooper communicates the spark of a new relationship, where both parties discover the pull of attraction, not only physically but also artistically.
What many would consider a fever dream before a return to normalcy, Ally’s life takes a sharp turn when she decides to quit her job and take the private plane Maine has left her, so she can attend the next show.
A not-so-subtle push from Maine later, Ally is performing a song she wrote on stage with Maine’s legendary band.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Ally’s fame rises quickly just as Maine’s tours slowly fade and paid corporate gigs become the new normal.
Even as a romance between the two blossoms, Maine’s addictive tendencies create damaging results at every turn.
Interestingly, A Star Is Born refuses to stick to the standard trips of a relationship working through addiction. Even though the film presents clear challenges for the characters to overcome, those challenges aren’t the usual challenges an audience would expect from the addicted rock star trope.
Instead, the audience observes co-dependency and the pain of experiencing broken people breaking each other.
A Gold Star for Acting
If anything about A Star Is Born could be considered profound, it would be the natural, lived-in relationship between Ally and Jack. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper contribute an engaging chemistry to the role. Considering the stardom of both actors, it’s quite an accomplishment to bring the audience into an immersive experience of their relationship.
And yet, something feels a little forced about A Star Is Born. The final twists feel too much like Oscar bait and the pacing of the story feels a little off. The first third of the film seems to rest on the single night where the two meet and the final two thirds rush through years of artistic and relational developments. As such, parts of the story feel more like a narrative outline rather than a fully-fleshed narrative.
Nevertheless, A Star Is Born is enjoyable entertainment and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cooper and Gaga sitting in the Dolby Theater hoping to hear their names called in 2019.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5