A Star is Born

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A Star is Born

Runtime 135 minutes
R

The fact that they keep remaking this movie (the first was director George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood in 1932, followed by the first A Star is Born in 1937, and then the same-titled remakes in 1954 and 1976) epitomizes the paucity of originality in today’s Hollywood. If they can’t fill movies with special effects or comic book characters, they have to come up with a good script and a good story and that is it apparently beyond the ken of today’s Hollywood.

Regardless, I’m glad they tried this one again because it is an exceptionally good movie. Directed and co-written (with Eric Roth and Will Fetters) by star Bradley Cooper, it has top quality production design (Karen Murphy), captivating cinematography (Matthew Libatique) enhanced by wonderful editing (Jay Cassidy), and original music by Cooper, costar Lady Gaga, and other artists including Lucas Nelson, Jason Isbell and Mark Ronson, that is a cinch to win the Oscar.

While it is a well-known story of doomed love, the best part of the movie is the music. The songs are terrific and the concert scenes alone are worth the price of admission. All the vocals were recorded live during filming in real locations like the Greek Theater, The Forum and The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and the stages of the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, and Saturday Night Live.

While Cooper gives an Oscar-quality performance as the drunken Jackson Maine (he was Norman Maine in ’37 and ’54, and John Norman Howard in ’76), Lady Gaga is up to the task as his lover-to-become-star, Ally (Esther Victoria Blodgett – aka Vicki Lester in ’37, just Vicki Lester in ’54, Esther Hoffman in ’76). It grabs the viewer at the outset with Jack taking a bunch of pills with a gulp of booze before going onstage to belt out the movie’s first song before an effusive crowd.

This is followed by a realistic and effective meeting between Ally and Jack in a drag bar where Ally is performing (seductively singing “La Vie En Rose”). As the night progresses, they easily fall in love.

The familiar story progresses with no surprises but with a fine supporting cast which includes Sam Elliott, who has been one of my favorites since I saw him in Lifeguard (1976), a grossly underappreciated film that was terribly promoted as a film about a hunk and a bunch of bikini-clad babes, which it clearly was not. Here, Elliott plays Jack’s much older brother and manager, and, as usual, he is a delight. Also in the cast is Rafi Gavron, who provides authenticity as the edacious manager who knows how to make Ally a star.

This movie is an effulgent treat. Lady Gaga is a brilliant singer and Cooper shows surprising musical talent (not to mention the directing, for which he should receive an Oscar nomination, in addition to Best Actor). The movie drags in the last half hour, but the preceding 90 minutes are enough to carry it. I can’t say enough about the quality of the music and concert performances.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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