Review: A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)

Updated: Oct 12, 2018


Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper dives straight in with A Star Is Born, a first feature that both feels like a first feature and yet has the timbre of something far more fully-formed than that. Alas, it is a major studio picture, and an expensive one too, with tried-and-tested source material and a seasoned actor-producer at its centre; a film about the entertainment industry made within the industry itself really should give its audience that big Hollywood experience.


In fact, Cooper's first directing gig is quite the inverse from many such projects: low on artistry, high on competence. This lends A Star Is Born a slickness that sees it through the intense emotional terrain it attempts to navigate, though without a lot of detail in the process. So Cooper and co-lead Lady Gaga give broad, true portrayals largely without aa slickness that sees it through the intense emotional terrain isit attempts to navigate, though without a lot of detail in the process. So Cooper and co-lead Lady Gaga give broad, true portrayals largely without an affordance for the display of what fine work they've evidently put into developing these characters (this is most apparent in Sam Elliott's role, which is essentially just a component of Cooper's; Elliott gives his best, but in service of so little). That slickness is, however, an ideal trait for the film's musical components, which are both manifold and generous. Best of all, they're also mostly fantastic musically. Signature track 'Shallow' has been justly lauded since release, and there's a bounty of other numbers that genuinely sound like they could be or could have been legitimate chart hits - a rarity among popular music films - with closing number 'I'll Never Love Again' arguably the finest power ballad since the heydays of Whitney and Mariah.t into developing these characters (this is most apparent in Sam Elliott's role, which is essentially just a component of Cooper's; Elliott gives his best, but in service of so little). That slickness is, however, an ideal trait for the film's musical components, which are both manifold and generous. Best of all, they're also mostly fantastic musically. Signature track 'Shallow' has been justly lauded since release, and there's a bounty of other numbers that genuinely sound like they could be or could have been legitimate chart hits - a rarity among popular music films - with closing number 'I'll Never Love Again' arguably the finest power ballad since the heydays of Whitney and Mariah.


I loved DP Matthew Libatique's fleeting flair, brief vivid imagery enlivening and accenting the action; there's also a single cut late in the film that is of such remarkable brilliance that even laypeople will be talking about that edit for years to come. A Star Is Born is, indeed, a work of technical excellence, but it irked me on one key point, a point that proved particularly bothersome here given the high standard elsewhere: it's a poor portrayal of the music industry. Much as the point may be that this industry can, and does, corrupt, there's an unsettling lack of subtlety in its approach to putting this point across. Ally's rise to superstardom never feels plausible - her songs sound dated, her style is cheap, her performances are crass approximations of those highly-choreographed numbers that critics find so easy to lambast, yet professionals know are so difficult to pull off. Cooper and co. no doubt intend us to either not notice or to look past these shortcomings, but I am, regrettably, a stickler for detail in situations such as these - maybe my own cheap crassness sets me unshakeably in defence mode when artists deign to take on contemporary pop culture - and when it looks like the Grammys are being held in a town hall, all my sirens start blaring at once. Sorry, but if this is the deep end, I'd hate to see what the shallow looks like.


Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

0 views
Contact Us