A Star is Born ***
I’m not sure what I can say about “A Star Is Born” that hasn’t been said about a movie that has been made for 88 years marking this the fourth incarnation of the same story. It’s difficult to shower a movie with praise when films like “A Christmas Carol” much like this one has been told to death. Luckily Writer/Director/Star Bradley Cooper does a favorable job to the old tale by providing one of the most convincing depictions of alcoholism I have seen in some time. As someone who has battled addition himself (the theme of my site is in a bar for God’s sake) Cooper does the audience a service by not villainizing the drunk. His character Jack isn’t physically or verbally abusive but rather kind of a charming fellow even when completely plastered which is 90% of the time. Cooper does an excellent job slurring his way through the performance of a tortured yet engaging artist in his portrayal of Jack. He reminded me of myself in so many ways it broke my heart. Alcohol is something you rely on to fend off every negative thought from the past, present, and future so you can push forward or else you’ll end up jumping off the nearest bridge. Aside from Mr. Cooper, we have the real star of the show's singing talent, Lady Gaga.
This film sold its tickets by having us witness Ms. Gaga’s natural vocal talents and boy they are on full display. It’s refreshing to see a movie starring an actress who’s also a real-life singer that doesn’t have a 10 cent brain. Gaga was able to project her character from a very personal position that is inherent on the screen even if a bit flat considering Gaga isn't an actress at heart. Surprisingly, the most remarkable performance comes in the form of Sam Elliot. Sam play’s Jack’s brother Bobby. A man resembling a man from the past whom Jack copied his voice from to make it as a singer. The two have a natural chemistry together as a couple that has had to live through a rocky past because of common cinematic daddy issues. The battles the two have are as believable as you may have with your sibling trying to overcome problems of jealousy, embitterment, self-reliance and having known all the skeletons in each other's closet.
For all of its strengths, "A Star is Born" feels overly familiar thematically. It’s the same old story about a girl who finds a famous guy that makes her famous then the guy becomes a victim of himself leading to his downfall. It’s Charles Foster Kane with a guitar and booze. A man who has all the power of the world only to lose everything. I have a personal problem with how our world is utterly enamored by fame. Either you’re famous, or you’re a nobody. That’s how the world views people, and it makes us all feel so insignificant. "A Star Is Born" adamantly reminds us how Ally (Lady Gaga) was nothing up until she miraculously met some famous guy who insisted on being a part of her life. How he runs into her is one of those coincidental cinematic strokes of luck that moves beyond my suspension of disbelief.
I’d like to see a movie about someone who doesn’t become famous but is happy that he or she didn’t. Where’s that movie? How many times do I have to see thousands of cheering fans celebrating the protagonist's accomplishments? Every movie wants to fulfill a perverse notion of fame that erases us from realizing how incredible we are in our own way. I suppose if we are not famous or in the presence of those who are then we are just the shit for society to scrape its boot off. I have an absolute sickness from fame. I suffer it just as well as anyone else. Why do you think I’m on YouTube? We need to learn to value ourselves through who we are rather than the affirmation of others expectations.
The argument of the values we place upon fame is an old one that I’ll argue against until I’m an old man hobbling on a cane with broken dreams. I appreciated that unlike the very original film from 1937 our protagonist isn’t leaving her small town to pursue her dreams escaping the peasant family that’s holding her back. This incarnation is the scenario of a young lady whose family sticks with her the whole way through. I honestly had not seen the three other versions of the film since Filmstruck was canceled when I originally wrote this review. Renting movies is expensive kids. "A Star Is Born" is a classic story in the end even if morally apprehensive to my own beliefs. There’s actual chemistry between our two leads, and no character seems undercooked nor left out. It’s a frank depiction of alcohol addiction and well structured throughout. I suppose I would like to see something a little morally ambiguous next time around.