Say you have a movie you hold dear to your heart, and older movie…maybe not so much older…and you find out that they are remaking it. How does that make you feel? Now how does it make you feel if I told you that movie was going to be remade 3 more times, and you would more than likely live to see all three of those? While I don’t hold any version of A STAR IS BORN dear to my heart, the thought of a movie being remade for the 3rd time, and I’ve seen all three iterations before going into this new one, you can maybe have an inkling of what I was feeling. Basically, I was not looking forward to the story, yet again, but I was looking forward to the performances and mainly the music, because I heard it was sung and recorded live. I do think that this version of A Star Is Born is the most watchable and enjoyable with the Judy Garland version being a very close second, however I am not screaming from the hilltops for this movie to get nominated and win every single award from every single award ceremony that recognizes it so. I think it is a solid, good first time directorial debut from Bradley Cooper, with plenty of room for improvement. Think of Ben Affleck and Gone Baby Gone and you might see what I am talking about. Or Clint Eastwood and Play Misty For Me.
The story is simple, a really famous musician stumbles into a drag singing bar drunk on the way home from a concert on his tour, and he meets and falls hard for the one woman that the drag queens let sing because she has a beautiful voice and a sparkling personality. He takes her on some of his gigs and lets her sing and suddenly, she gets famous. As she gets famous, his alcohol an drug addiction gets the better of him and his career starts to plummet, and since he is with her, starts to be an inconvenience for hers too. Can they stay together with both of them being famous? Well, that questions is obviously answered in each of the four A Star Is Born, and basically each answer is the same, albeit tweaked one way or another. The first A Star is Born back in 1937 deals primarily with the acting organization, the 1954 Judy Garland version still deals with acting and movies but she is an aspiring singer in the movie as well. The God awful third movie with Barbara Streisand deals only with musicians, and then this one does too, although this one is more modern, showing how fame can really really really make or break you, when we live in a time where social media and fast spreading news rules all. And that’s one of the problems I had with this movie. At the beginning, Bradley Cooper has a couple of scenes that deal with his character’s fame and people snapping pics without his permission, trying to force him to take selfies, etc. and I really liked what he was trying to say. However, those examples in the second half of the film are few and far between, mainly glossed over, with not enough emphasis on social media showing his career’s downward spiral. With some of the things that happen, it is shocking he didn’t completely go with what he brought the audience before. He could’ve made an even bigger statement.
If you’ve seen any iteration of A Star Is Born, it has most of the same beats as the original, just tweaked here and there. If you know the ending to any of them, you know the ending to this one as well, although it is changed up just a little bit too. And that is the second problem I had with the movie. I wish I had never seen any other iteration of A Star Is Born, because I think going into this fresh, everything would’ve had more of an impact. With everything that does happen in this, I didn’t have a lump in my throat, or was really shocked with what happened with any of the characters. I sort of just, pointed at the screen and was like “yep, there it is.” Which, don’t you think any filmmaker in his right mind, with remaking a film that has been done three other times, maybe try and pull something off drastically different. To me this movie seemed a little too safe for Cooper to make his directorial debut in. Ben Affleck went all out where his first film was just based off a book and he had no previous iterations of that movie to go on. His directorial debut seemed a lot more original. Did we really need another remake of this film? If he would’ve done something completely drastically different with the story and stayed with the social media fame aspect, I think it could’ve warranted another remake, but instead this movie goes through all the same motions, and all the same beats, with just different dialogue, actors, and some scenes in between. Also, and I am just nitpicking at this point, Bradley Cooper does this one glaring foreshadowing shot in the movie that is wayyyy too in your face. It’s a foreshadowing shot of the ending, and it is with him and Lady Gaga in the car near the beginning of the movie. If you know what happens in the movie and know all the other films ending, this shot gives too much away, and I thought it could’ve been cut or done differently. But like I said, that is just me being a brat and a minor nitpick.
I recommended the movie didn’t I? In the first paragraph? Yes, and I’m sorry it sounds like I’m completely trashing this film. It is probably what I like to call the ‘Frozen” effect, where I hear a movie is getting so much praise and power before I see it and am a little disappointed in what I watch. So let’s get to the really good stuff in this movie and why it is worth watching: the music. The original songs, who knows who wrote them, probably both Cooper and Gaga, are amazing. And the fact that they were sung live and included those takes plus audio into the final cut makes it that much more beautiful. I could seriously never watch this movie again, but own the soundtrack and listen to it until my earbuds pop out of my skull. If ‘Shallow’ doesn’t win best song at the Academy Awards, something is seriously wrong with voters. In fact, most of these songs could get nominated and in the end, A Star Is Born could only be competing with itself come award season in that category, and Cooper and Gaga could be winning an Oscar no matter what. And Cooper does a nice job directing, he doesn’t just point and shoot, the concert scenes up on stage have a lavish quality to them where it feels like you are standing on stage with him, his band, and Gaga. Also, he knows how to shoot performances. It’s a great debut, and he can only improve from here. And to say that he can direct performances well is an understatement, because everybody’s acting in this is grand, including his own. Lady Gaga is great here too (especially since we know we can actual sing and doesn’t ever need auto tune). Now while I don’t think it is necessarily Oscar worthy, I think it is a great start, and she could improve in the future to actually win an Oscar in a different role (I actually think Cooper is the better actor here of the two and acts circles around her in some scenes). I actually like the supporting performances better, especially from Sam Elliot (who plays Cooper’s brother and manager), Dave Chappelle (who plays Cooper’s friend and hints that he was a bit famous but gave it up for family), and Andrew Dice Clay (who plays Gaga’s father). There is this one scene with Elliot and Cooper near the end of the film which ALMOST brought a lump to my throat, and any scene with him and Chappelle was nice and fresh and different.
Anyway, the point is, if you haven’t seen any version and want to this this new A Star Is Born, I absolutely recommend it. You will love it and will probably walk out of the theater in tears, talking about how much you loved it and want to own it when it comes out, the ultimate romantic drama musical (people are calling it a musical, it really isn’t, just a lot of songs inbetween actually characterization, but whatever) for you. You will own the soundtrack and listen to all the songs a million, gazillion times. Walk into this as fresh as possible. If you are like me, obsessed with movies, have seen any of the iterations, if not all of them, or know the entire story, you might find yourself a little disappointed that couldn’t do anything different with the story, but you sure as hell will love the live music. I think all this giant Oscar talk on this film is a little premature and over amplified, I think the only nominations it deserves is for any of the songs, but it is a solid remake, and considering all the remakes we get that are ultimate trash these days, why don’t we just accept the good ones we are given. One last thing, props to Bradley Cooper for giving his own props to his ‘Alias’ television show roots with two little cameos. Made me smile.