A Star Is Born (2018) Movie Review

Since my early screening, I have heard a lot of high praise for A STAR IS BORN.  I’m going to give you a different take. A STAR IS BORN is basic.  Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga give terrific performances and the music is very well done (I’m sure many will love it).  However, the film is completely ordinary, offering nothing new or of any lasting substance.

Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born

For the most part, movies have taught me that musicians are the most uninteresting people who live the same life of self loathing and drug abuse.  I don’t believe that to be entirely true, but according to A STAR IS BORN, the current musician fights the same struggle when balancing love and stardom.  I don’t need to give you a synopsis of the film because everyone already knows it.  And that is not because A STAR IS BORN is the fourth feature film remake (1976 – Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, 1954 – Judy Garland and James Mason, 1937 – Janet Gaynor and Fredric March). No, A STAR IS BORN is a remake of nearly every film that anyone has ever seen that follows the life of a musician, fiction and nonfiction. You don’t have to see the previous A STAR IS BORN films to know what this one is about.  They are all the same. A huge rock star meets an aspiring artist.  He immediately sees her talent and they both fall in love. But what do you think will be the conflict? Say it with me – “Alcohol, drugs, rising fame, and poor communication.”  If you know the musicians life story, there are a couple of different ways the story will conclude, so I’ll leave that 50/50 guess up to you. But be warned that it is foreshadowed telegraphed in a fairly blatant speech prior.

There are some decent elements to the film. As I said, the acting and music are quite good.  Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have great chemistry. The supporting work from Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, and even a brief appearance by Dave Chappelle are all quite good. In fact, Sam Elliott, in my opinion has the best scene in the film without ever saying a word. But there is a lot more to making a great movie than just strong performances.  Especially when we’ve seen these type of characters before in the exact same movies. I want to give a lot of credit to Bradley Cooper who not only stars in the film but also directed the film, co-wrote the screenplay, co-wrote much of the music. It’s quite an impressive feat. And as a first time director, he has plenty of promise.  I also want to praise his voice work as he delivers a gruff, raspy sound in his speech and vocals that actually sounds amazing.

Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born

It’s not that A STAR IS BORN is a terrible film. Yes, it lacks depth and originality. It also has some odd edits and pacing issues that need to be tightened with a long runtime of 135 minutes. But it’s very decent in an average, non-Oscar talk sort of way. So can we please stop seeing advertisements praising the film as the Best Picture of the year?  It’s the same surface level depths of drug abuse and depression in the face of love and stardom. I want to be careful not to be insensitive to those that deal with those issues, but I’ve seen this story before.  Please give me a new insight. That goes for all genre pics. The problem isn’t necessarily that the story is the same but you have to at least tell it differently. Give me something new to appreciate. Otherwise, why am I watching? At least 2014’s LOVE & MERCY gave a glimpse at the musician’s process along with his personal struggles.

I admit that I’m probably being tougher on the movie because of the high praise I continue to hear. But everything I said about the film is absolutely true. There is nothing in A STAR IS BORN that hasn’t been done before.  I imagine younger audiences might like it more because they have yet to be exposed to this genre and will be enamored by Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and the music, which could very well earn Oscar nominations with one win for “Shallow” as the Best Song.

At one point in the film, a character speaks about how all songs are only utilizing the same twelve notes, but it’s how the artist delivers those notes that makes it great.  Well, A STAR IS BORN is definitely from the same notes and its delivery is about as ordinary and basic as one can get.


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