Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Elliott, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle
Director: Bradley Cooper
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Rating: R for Mumbled Profanity, Intense Alcoholism, and a Few Intimate Moments
Release Date: October 5, 2018
Bradley Cooper’s dialogue is often difficult to understand throughout A Star is Born, and I think that is part and parcel of the sort of storytelling he is presenting here in his directorial debut. This isn’t a film that is meant to be processed perfectly concretely, in which you hang on to every last word and every frame is a piece in the puzzle. Instead, it is about the overall experience, in which you let all wash over you. Logic and slavish accounting of details are beside the point. Does it make sense that someone could so suddenly become so famous and beloved on the basis of talent alone? And how come we never know how much time has passed? These are often worthwhile questions, but A Star is Born is more concerned about emotional and aesthetic truth within its improbable framework.
This is the fourth Star is Born film, with each of them telling the story of an unknown female entertainer discovered by a famous male performer who is on a bit of a decline. In this case, country-blues-rocker Jackson Maine (Cooper) stumbles across Ally (Lady Gaga) at a drag queen bar after one of his concerts. Immediately enthralled, he brings her onstage during his show the very next night, and thus begins a massively successful career and a whirlwind romance. This edition does not introduce anything particularly groundbreaking to the Star is Born template, but it is in the retelling that it derives its power. By emerging once again into the popular consciousness, it reaches the level of myth, as the rise-fall-endure narrative is how we continue to understand and process the fame narrative.
A myth story tends to work best when it is timeless. The fact that A Star is Born is set in the present day thus makes things a little tricky. Whenever specific markers of this day and age (Ally signing to Interscope Records, Ally performing on SNL with Alec Baldwin hosting, Halsey appearing as herself as a Grammy presenter) appear, it’s a little jarring. But these moments could be even more unsettling; instead, they go along with a dreamlike quality in which everything is woven into the timeless fabric. The details could be specific, as when Ally’s first duet with Jackson goes viral and her father (Andrew Dice Clay) marvels at how many views the video has gotten online, without ever mentioning the actual number of views. But that’s the thing about a star being born: it’s not a specific number of viewers that determine it, but when enough people are watching, you can feel that the birth has happened.
A Star is Born is Recommended If You Like: Creation and Rebirth myths, Lady Gaga as person and entertainer, Actors really flexing their directorial muscles
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Discoveries