Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Star is Born (2018) - Music Movie Review


For those of you who have read this blog in the past, you'll know that I do something called a "Straight From the Theater" review. That's where I go to see a movie at the theater and immediately come home and a write a review for it. In case that wasn't obvious. Well, I don't go to the movies very often anymore, for many reasons. In fact, I only saw two films in the theater last year. Unfortunately, one of them was during my personal hiatus. Therefore, I didn't do a review right away. So, I thought I should have my first one of the year be about this movie, A Star is Born.

Now, I'm someone who is not necessarily a fan of remakes. In fact, I tend to dislike them quite a bit. They just usually seem pointless to me. But the truth is, it can go either way. I mean, I thought the True Grit remake was great and I liked the recent incarnation of The Magnificent Seven. On the other hand, we always have the 1999 version of The Haunting. Yeah, let's not talk about that anymore. I still feel the traumatic aftereffects of the review I did years ago. So, when I heard about yet another A Star is Born being made, I was on the fence, but I kept my eye out for it and became intrigued. So, I decided to give it a shot.

A Star is Born centers around Jackson Maine, a successful rock star played by Bradley Cooper. He is still very popular, but he is dealing with personal demons, mostly pertaining to drug and alcohol abuse. One night, he comes across a waitress and a singer-songwriter named Ally. He is quite impressed by her talent and then end up spending the night talking with each other and really opening up about themselves. Eventually, Jackson invites Ally to one of his concerts where she ends up singing on stage with him. The crowd is extremely impressed and, thus, begins Ally's ascent into stardom. You could almost say that, on that night, a star was born. Yeah, I said it.

Predictably, especially if you've seen the previous versions of this film, the relationship between Jackson and Ally deepens, but with that beautiful love story aspect, it also brings more problems for them. Jackson continues to struggle as Ally continues to thrive, and they are both going in directions that the other thinks is the wrong way. Even though we can see how they can be, in some ways, damaging to each other, we can also see how they bring out some of the best as well. In ends up making us root for them, but almost reluctantly so, because what we think is best for them may not be. And wanting the best for someone at any cost is kind of a theme in this film. The thing is, though, that you can always feel the love between them. No matter what is said or what mistakes are made, there is no doubt about the love.

Now I refuse to spoil the end for anyone who hasn't seen it, but I must admit, it is rather perfect. Mostly because it is the ending that must happen in this film. That's one thing I can always appreciate from a movie like this. If it has a real ending. It can be happy, sad, ambiguous, I don't care, as long as it's real. As long as it's true to the story. And, in this case, it is very much an authentic ending for the story being told.

Okay, so about the cast. I really liked everyone's performance in this. I was very impressed with our leads, especially. I've always enjoyed Bradley Cooper as an actor, and he was great in this, even with the added task of being the director as well. That's another thing he did a good job with. Maybe he learned something from working with Clint Eastwood about pulling double duty. In addition to that, in this version, as opposed to the others, this film seems to be more about the man than the woman. I heard a rumor that some people thought Bradley Cooper made it that way so he could ensure himself a few Oscar noms, but I don't believe that. Honestly, I think he didn't want his co-star to have to carry the weight of the whole movie on her shoulders, as she doesn't have as much film experience as him. Just a theory. Speaking of his co-star, let's talk about Lady Gaga.

I've had my ups and downs with Lady Gaga, both as an artist and as a person, but I have never denied her talent. And much like I can say she's an amazing musician, I can now say that she is an amazing actress. She really did embrace this role and made it incredibly believable. I think she had a lot in common with Ally, especially concerning her insecurities, so she was able to bring a lot of herself into the part. Not to mention the fact that she and Bradley Cooper had some phenomenal chemistry, a must for a movie like this. My one complaint is that she didn't use her real name for this. I don't know why, but I would have liked it if, just for this, she was calling herself Stefani Germanotta instead of Lady Gaga.

Aside from those two, the supporting cast was terrific, as well. We had Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, Rafi Gavron and Andrew Dice Clay, who I almost didn't recognize. But of all of the supporters, the best was Sam Elliot, playing Bobby, Jackson's much older brother. He was incredible as usual and, again, the chemistry between him and Cooper was about perfect and, in some places, almost heartbreaking.

Okay, it's time to talk about the music in this music movie review. It was wonderful and for me to say that about any music that came out last year is a lot. Look, let me honest. In 2018, there were only four artists who gave me any music that I cared to listen to: Avril Lavigne, Lana Del Rey, a friend of mine who is a brilliant musician and who I will talk about later at some point, and Lady Gaga. Okay, technically, I guess it would be her and Bradley Cooper, but whatever. The point is that this music is something special, and it all felt a bit throwback and retro-y to me. Maybe that's why, even though I know the film takes place in modern times, there are many moments where it feels like we're back in the 70's which I love. Now, obviously, everyone is always talking about how great "Shallow" is, and I agree. But there are other gems as well, like "Look What I Found", "Maybe It's Time", "Always Remember Us This Way" and my personal favorite, "Is That Alright?" Yeah, if that last one snuck in with "Shallow" to also get an Oscar nom, I'd be pleased.

So, in conclusion, I really liked this latest version of A Star is Born, and I'm glad I did. As I mentioned, it takes a lot these days for me to drag myself out to the theater. I really have to want to see something and I don't want to be disappointed. Well, I was not disappointed here. I love films about music and writers and all that, and I'd consider this one of the much better ones I've seen. I highly recommend it.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

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