What better movie to turn someone into a movie star than one called “A Star Is Born”? That’s what this movie, the third remake of the 1937 film of the same name, is going to do for Lady Gaga. You’ve probably heard of her. She’s released some music in the last decade. But her attempts to break into the movies have been … less than stellar, at least so far. But here, for perhaps the first time, she shines on the screen and delivers a great performance. In the span of 130+ minutes, she becomes a star.
Her character does, too, such is the plot of the movie. She plays Ally, an aspiring singer-songwriter who works a dead-end job and seems destined to have her potential go unrealized. One night, when performing at a club, she is “discovered” by Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), an established star who just came from a gig and needed a drink or three afterward. He lays eyes on her and falls in love. This begins a whirlwind of a romance as well as a turn in the careers of both participants.
The movie, in effect, goes down two roads simultaneously. We’ve got this up-and-down relationship between the younger, purer—for lack of a better word—Ally and this hard-drinking, fading rock star in Jackson. And we also have the progression of both of their careers. Ally, thanks to Jackson, gets discovered and begins to pursue a pop career, while he begins to self-destruct on both a professional and personal level. And A Star Is Born does a solid job of marrying these two storylines and telling them effectively.
If there’s a complaint to be had it’s all in the balance. The film was co-written and directed by Bradley Cooper, and he gave himself more of the screen time and focus, when it should have been more 50/50. His character’s descent is engaging, sure, but it works even better when we see how it impacts Ally and her career. We get bits and pieces of that, mostly through exposition, but never really feel it. And that limits the amount of emotional impact the movie can have on its audience.
That’s the only big problem with this version of A Star Is Born. The stories are still mostly effective, the main relationship is believable and feels real—we can see how these two people might fall in love even if that’s not necessarily the best thing for them—and the characters have enough depth to carry that. The acting is great—Cooper’s self-destructive but kind-hearted musician might be his best performance yet, Gaga shines in a vulnerable and star-making role, Sam Elliott gets a few fantastic scenes, and Andrew Dice Clay has a shockingly good turn as Ally’s father.
And I haven’t even gotten to the music. A Star Is Born is a musical with plenty of songs from both Cooper and Gaga. We know Gaga can sing—and she is really good at it—but Cooper was more of an unknown. He pulls it off. The music is great throughout the movie. Gaga’s big moments are the highlights, which shouldn’t surprise many people. And, to Cooper’s credit, he moves aside and focuses on her when the moment is appropriate during the musical numbers. It would have made for a better movie if the focus was more balanced throughout, but what we get is still a very good film that’s well worth the time.
Conclusion: A Star Is Born is a solid musical that would have been great had it done a better job of balancing the focus between its two protagonists.
Recommendation: A Star Is Born is still a really good watch and if you like musicals or romances, you should see it.