Audiences will be blown away by “A Star Is Born,” the remake of a remake of a remake from first time director Bradley Cooper.
This isn’t to say that the 2018 version is flawless (though it arguably comes close).
But “A Star Is Born” is a whirlwind of a film that will have audiences bracing for impact, blazing out of the gate with searing guitar riffs and fly-by-night romance that announce the arrival of Cooper as a filmmaker and Lady Gaga as a force of nature.
Based on the classic story of weathered star meets hidden gem, this version of “A Star Is Born” sees addict rocker Jackson Maine stumble into a bar only to instantly fall for Ally, a struggling singer/songwriter working in a restaurant to make ends meet.
Their chance meeting of destiny serves as the backdrop for Cooper’s heart-wrenching, gripping melodramatic commentary on celebrity, addiction and unbridled passion at any cost.
Gaga is a revelation as Ally, pouring her heart and soul into a part built to showcase her immense musical talent and ease her into the world of dramatic acting.
Even playing opposite a multiple Oscar nominee, Gaga more than holds her own scene to scene. The instantaneous, almost effortless chemistry she develops with Cooper on screen allows audiences to overcome the film’s conceits and buy in to the immediacy of Ally and Jackson’s romance.
She is especially astounding in the self-consciousness Ally shows in her singing early in the film. The emotions she feels on a phrase to phrase basis make it easier to identify Ally the shy performer and obscure Gaga the hit-maker.
Just as Gaga transforms beautifully from singer to actress, Cooper melts into character as grizzled rocker Jackson, a performer with the voice of Eddie Vedder, the soul of Neil Young and the blackest liver around. It helps considerably that Cooper penned lyrics to the songs that lean in to the type of performance he gives.
His ability to float in and out of consciousness as if by instinct is remarkable, both in scenes where Jackson has to get up and perform and in moments where his alcoholism drives him to the brink of destruction.
The performance melds perfectly with veteran character actor Sam Elliott, who delivers pitch-perfect dialogue in limited screen time that resonates long after he’s gone. The brotherly bond Cooper and Elliott find delves way beyond the similar intonation vocally and speaks to an understanding between musicians and brothers alike.
Everything that seems like it might not work in “A Star Is Born” works. Dave Chappelle coming out of retirement to play against type as Jackson’s supportive best friend is surprisingly perfect. A nearly unrecognizable Andrew Dice Clay provides equal parts warmth and bravado in a smaller turn as Ally’s brash, quintessentially Italian father.
Cooper has created the definitive version of “A Star Is Born,” a visually dynamic spectacle that surpasses the limitations of the musical genre.
Each song serves a purpose musically, emotionally and in character development. The lyrics penned by Cooper, Gaga and Lukas Nelson provide touchstones for the entire film, authoring Jackson and Ally’s meteoric relationship.
Cooper and cinematographer Matthew Libatique give “A Star Is Born” a crisp, yet cutting edge, flashing striking color contrast a la “Blade Runner 2049,” but with a smooth country flair. There’s a distinct attachment to the profile shot that resonates across the film that accentuates a running dialogue about the beauty in Ally’s nose, a subtle, yet enduring visually commentary.
“A Star Is Born” will certainly be a mainstay come awards season as a leading contender in the Best Picture, Best Director and acting categories. Libatique’s mesmerizing cinematography should garner nomination and it would be no surprise to see songs like “Shallow” and “I’ll Never Love Again” compete for votes in the Original Song category.
There’s something enduring about “A Star Is Born” that stays with audiences long after they’ve left the theater, a dramatic weight you carry home with you that lingers even longer with the soundtrack playing on repeat.
It’s a film that will be hard to see more than once, but Cooper brings viewers on a ride so totally worth the emotional rollercoaster that it’s hard not to turn right around and see it again.
“A Star Is Born” could very easily end up being the best film of 2018 and the leading Academy Award contender, making it a must see in theaters as soon as possible.