#REVIEW: “A STAR IS BORN”
By Mr. Will Wong
Like a comet, on the rarest occasion does a love story so remarkable descend upon us. Now in its fourth incarnation, A STAR IS BORN is the directorial debut of multi-talented Bradley Cooper, coming to us with a deafening amount of buzz. He also writes and stars in the Film too in case you needed to feel bad about your own accomplishments and multi-tasking abilities. Believe what you’ve read, believe what you’ve heard, this Musical-Drama will leave you shaken to the core. The songs never quite leave your head and weeks after seeing it, you find yourself still in the magical world that Cooper creates. And we’re okay with that.
The Film centers on Singer/Songwriter Jackson Maine (Cooper), a megastar coping with his own demons. The stars align one night in pursuit of drink and he finds himself mesmerized by Ally (Lady Gaga) and her rendition of Édith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose at an unsuspecting drag queen bar where she performs on occasion. The flames burn wild and the two just may have found the one they each were meant for. Jackson ignites the artist within Ally and before she can say “Grammy“, she is living her dream before thousands of admiring eyes, joining him on-stage. Her star rises in a meteoric way, just as quick as their love progresses. Jackson finally may have found his exit from a life of sadness in Ally, while she finds true love and her dream on one singular path. Ally is groomed for stardom and this torments Jackson silently as we see his light diminish just as her’s continues to brighten. We witness the taxing cost of this on their love, ever painful to watch as it unfolds.
A STAR IS BORN‘s Music must be spoken to as it is a character in itself. SHALLOW, a Mark Ronson (Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk, Amy Winehouse‘s Back to Black) co-penned Folk-Rock ballad, sweeps us away into Jackson and Ally‘s world. The latter’s ALWAYS REMEMBER US THIS WAY solidifies her raw talent and draws a point of contrast to some of the material which she performs as her popstar self in the Film, perhaps crafted to make us repel the artifice of the latter. Two of the Soundtrack’s pinnacle moments are saved for late where Gaga channels The Bodyguard-era Whitney Houston in her vocals on I’LL NEVER LOVE AGAIN. It is impossible not to be shaken by her performance in this one true moment her character transforms into a star. A rough cut of IS THAT ALRIGHT? by Gaga is played over the Credits, also deeply-affecting.
Cooper does an incredible job cutting through the sheen of the spotlights, filled arenas, tour buses, private jets and SUVs, directing our attentions always on the Film’s heart and soul. We never stop wanting for Ally to succeed and we never stop wanting for Jackson and her to be together forever. When what we wish for cannot be, we are left devastated and herein A STAR IS BORN’s tragedy is its beauty. The Story has been told many times but Cooper tells it in a way that feels new, hitting us harder than others have ever before.
A Story this beautiful needs to be just as flawless visually. Matthew Libatique‘s (Black Swan, Iron Man) meticulous eye once again is at its best capturing the thrill and adrenaline of the concert scenes, down to some of the Film’s more tender moments between Jackson and Ally where we feel we’re right there falling in love or fighting with them.
Cooper makes our heart weep and we will never forget his spellbinding performance, a culmination of countless hours of voice work, both speaking and singing. Gaga, contrary to what a very miniscule minority of detractors might say, is performing at the highest level, delivering also her best work here vocally. Comparisons to popstar Gaga are unavoidable as Cooper crafted the Film with the her in mind at the epicenter of it all.
Sam Elliott stars as Jackson‘s older brother and manager Bobby, particularly poignant when paired with Cooper, in a performance which isn’t to be outshone by the Film’s two leads. An unrecognizable Andrew Dice Clay also is delightful as Ally‘s professional driver dad, Lorenzo. Rising Star Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, Monsters and Men) as Ally‘s best friend Ramon, lights-up the screen too and is a name to keep a tab on.
Make no mistake, you will leave A STAR IS BORN shattered emotionally and hopelessly-enamoured at once. Thank us after you’ve caught your breath from the sobbing and dried your eyes. One of, if not the year’s best.
Warner Bros. Canada release A STAR IS BORN Friday, October 5, 2018.