Film Review: A Star is Born (2018)

by - October 03, 2018

A Star is Born (2018) is a musical drama based on the infamous story told several times in film over the decades. This is Bradley Cooper's directorial debut and he stars in this picture alongside first-time actor and infamous artist Lady Gaga, who keeps her stage name for the promotional material of this film. This is one of the first major Oscar contenders to be released to the cinema as awards season approaches us once again.

In this film, famous country artist Jackson Maine (Cooper) stumbles into a drag club after a gig to come across Ally (Gaga) performing and falls in love with her voice. Witnessing her songwriting and vocal talents, he invites her to his next concert where she goes on stage and performs her own song. They start to fall in love and through the troubles of the music industry, as well as Jackson's problems with drug addiction and alcoholism, this film shows the struggles of the relationship and the rise and fall of both artists.

This is a film that I have been majorly excited about since I heard about the project. I have been in love with Bradley Cooper since he starred in one of my favourite movies of all time, Silver Linings Playbook (2012). The advertising campaign has been so strong for this film, and that is down to highlighting Gaga's talent. Cooper is self-aware that a lot of fans are going to watch this film purely because of Gaga, and that hype has been well built. This was a film that I had highly anticipated and with recent films either being okay or underwhelming, I was hoping that this film wouldn't join the list.

A Star is Born (2018) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures
This film may be 136 minutes long but this film makes use of every second of that. With Krasinski first in A Quiet Place (2018), to Cooper in A Star is Born, this truly seems to be the year of directorial debuts from the leading star. Cooper shines both front and behind the scenes, showing all aspects of his skills and abilities. Whether he is singing, something I didn't even know he could do, to giving a heart-wrenching performance as his character deals with drug abuse and alcoholism, he always makes us feel a presence on the screen and you forget it is a fictional story with an actor in front of you.

Behind the scenes, he really knows how to set up a compelling story. The film starts by setting up important features, right from the one take of him walking up to the stage, taking drugs before he goes on, and starting to perform. This single shot not only makes the audience feel like they are there in the moment, but it also feels like a real moment into Jackson's life, right from the start. Everything about the story and how it is told has been done so well, especially from a first-time director.

Of course, a big reason why this film works so well in terms of narrative comes down to Lady Gaga's performance. Right from the first moment we see her on screen, she gives her all into the character. It was clear that her vocals were going to be spot on even from the trailers, but I am not sure if anyone was expecting her to give the dramatic performance she has given. Gaga and Cooper both certainly give Oscar worthy performances, and I hope they get the recognition that they thoroughly deserve.

A Star is Born (2018) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures

A big part of this film is down to the soundtrack, seeing that this film is a story of two artists. This film could have easily gone down the route of other recent musicals such as La La Land (2016) and The Greatest Showman (2017), and yet it doesn't. It recognises that it is a serious drama and with that, all of the music is presented authentically. Whether it is a concert, songwriting session or in the studio, the songs seem to be placed in a real world. This also works because the songs are so good and connected to the situation and fit for radio play, that you believe that they are real songs by real artists.

This is not a new tale to Hollywood, but despite its several runs, it still feels new and current. Personally, I have not heard or seen any of the other adaptations of this story. There were people that had seen other version of this film in my cinema screening, and it was nice hearing them chat about it when I left the screen. They had commented that the story was told in the same order, with the same pinnacle moments occurring in the film. The soundtrack was very different, but then again that would change around the current music trends.

I will not reveal any of the major events that happened in the film due to spoilers, but if you have not seen any version of A Star is Born, you are in for a few shocking moments. This is a story filled with raw emotion and heart, and throughout you will be laughing with joy, yet also sobbing your eyes out. I walked out the cinema still trying to wipe away the tears that this film left me crying, that is how powerful this film and story truly is.

A Star is Born (2018) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures

It does not matter whether you know the story of A Star is Born or not. It does not matter if you know the events that happen in this story or not. The emotions are still there and this film presents the subject matter in a real and fresh sense that it will feel new and authentic, something that is much needed in film right now. They don't glamourise the harsh subject matters of this film, and instead show the problems that drugs and alcohol can do to a job and relationship, and the consequences of being in that situation.

Even with the little action on screen, the story moves along so fast and we lose track of time. It is only with little moments that are in real events such as the Grammys that we get a sense of what time of the year we are in. We don't know how much time has passed, and yet it feels irrelevant to the story. What matters in this film is living in the moment, not looking into the past or the future.

This is a beautifully told story, and you wouldn't believe that this is a debut from both Cooper as a director and Gaga as an actress. This has got to be a major consideration for awards season in the upcoming months, and I am pleasantly shocked that this has risen up to the level of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018) to be a contender for my favourite film of 2018.

5/5

Have you seen A Star is Born yet? Do you agree that it deserves the highest praise? Let me know in the comments below.

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