We already knew that Lady Gaga could sing, but A Star Is Born showed off that her talent can be seen in front of the camera, as well as behind the microphone. That was my biggest takeaway from this movie. It is an excellent movie overall, but Lady Gaga is easily the standout.
First time director Bradley Cooper is able to tell a meaningful story that brings strong and raw emotions to the characters, the dialogue, and the story itself. Apart from some sloppy storytelling here and there, some really awkward editing, and sections of the movie that are really slow, Cooper’s directorial debut can easily be categorized as a success and job well done.
Couple the good direction with another outstanding performance, and Cooper shows that he’s still just getting better. After mostly just doing the voice of Rocket Raccoon for a few years now, he’s officially back on track with playing Jackson Maine. But he is also helped by other quality performances. There is of course Lady Gaga, but Sam Elliot also gives an excellent performance as Jack’s older brother. Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle are scene stealers in their smaller roles as well.
Of course, this is a movie about musicians. Cooper and Lady Gaga recorded their music live, instead of in a studio, and it pays off. Any time someone is playing music or singing on screen, it seems that much more genuine, because it doesn’t seem auto tuned or lip synced.
It also pays off that the concert scenes are shot differently from others. The cinematography in those scenes makes it seem like a music video instead of a feature film. It accentuates the feeling of these characters being onstage, instead of living their normal lives. In fact, the cinematography throughout the whole movie is beautiful and well-done. The style of camera movement is different for concert scenes, normal dialogue scenes, and scenes when Jack’s alcohol and drug problems are getting the better of him.
Those scenes are where A Star Is Born really hits home. Apart from Ally’s (Lady Gaga) journey and path to stardom, the biggest messages being sent and topics being explored are related to substance abuse. Because of hard times as a child, Jack was never able to exorcise those specific demons, and it affects every aspect of his life. Fittingly, the movie doesn’t hold back when addressing those topics. It sends a clear message about the problems they can cause.
But underneath all of that, there is the beautiful theme of Ally loving Jack unconditionally. Even when he is terrible to her in his drunken times, she still sees him for who he is. It’s subtle, but it’s important.
A Star Is Born is as important as it is beautiful. In a time when mental health and issues such as that are taken as seriously as they are, this movie handles them carefully, but powerfully. Even when the story gets slow, these aspects and thoughts are enough to pull you through to the end. It is an end that will punch you in the gut, but just because we need the punch in the gut to understand the severity of these issues.