As the occasionally bland “Oscar-Bait” movies start to come in season, it’s always a surprising delight to get a film like Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born (2018). The third remake of the 1937 film of the same name, Bradley Cooper’s spin on the tale manages to deliver a fast-paced story on the highs and lows of romance and fame, with good music and great performances to boot.
A Star Is Born follows the troubled Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a boozy musician coasting on his status as a legendary rock star, who stumbles across the undiscovered talent of Ally (Lady Gaga) as she performs in a drag bar. Once the two meet, both romance and Ally’s career as a musician rocket forward through the uncertain future. Like others, I was skeptical with the pairing of Cooper and Gaga as the leads in a musical romance, suspecting Cooper would be a great actor but a lackluster musician, and vice-versa. However, both talents manage to play both parts surprisingly well. Jackson Maine and Ally both feel very human, and have great chemistry together. Their relationship is convincingly real through the highs and lows, from their awkward first meetings to the film’s final end.
As for the film’s music, it’s really good. Many of the songs performed by Jackson Maine sound like top-charting country rock radio hits from some thirty-odd years ago, which is completely in-line with the character who wrote it. Likewise, Ally’s music is definitively that of the new generation, shifting from emotionally-driven tunes inspired by Maine’s musical style, to a more mainstream pop sound as she soars in popularity. The songs never overstay their welcome, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the film’s soundtrack slips into the Top 40 after its release.
The story itself is definitely reliant on the film’s predecessors. The story does have many tried and true tropes of romance movies from the past, especially at the film’s start, some of which translate better than others. However, the film’s narrative is a definitively modern spin on the somewhat familiar story, and overall it feels more believable than not.
Additionally, the film’s quick pacing reflects the “live fast, die young” adage often attributed to the lives of famous musicians throughout time, which accentuates the story being told. As the romance between Ally and Jackson races forward, it’s difficult to tell how much time has really passed, and it feels intentional. Though I do wish that certain moments in the film’s third act had a little more time to linger and leave deeper emotional stings, it’s better to have a shorter, tightly-made movie than to have one that feels like it’s never going to end.
Overall, A Star Is Born delivers a strong contender for an Oscar nod with its modern twist on an old classic, with human performances and great music. It’s a surprisingly strong directorial debut that even skeptics should take the risk in seeing for themselves.
George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in Sociology, along with Certificates in Exile Studies and Film Studies.