Movie review: ‘A Star is Born’. Lady Gaga shines in first big starring role
Like the last version of this oft-told tale, 2018's "A Star is Born" is set in the world of popular music. In this writer's opinion it's vastly superior to the one that starred the terribly miscast Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
Some might differ owing to its leads, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but once this movie began to unspool, all my reservations fell aside due to solid characterizations and thoughtful presentation.
Don't get me wrong. It's still a huge melodrama with the soap opera needle occasionally buried in the red zone, but the people portrayed by Cooper and Gaga are so relatable they deserve a pass.
Part of this may be because it's directed by Cooper himself, a pretty solid actor in his own right who also surprises by revealing considerable chops as a singer and musician. Gaga, it goes without saying, is a powerhouse stadium-filling performer whose larger-than-life persona belies her physical stature. But, here, she reveals stunning subtlety as a straight-ahead actor.
The movie follows the outline set in 1937 when Janet Gaynor’s starlet falls in love with alcoholic A-lister Frederic March under the direction of William A. Wellman. It was a plot that also served Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954 and the aforementioned Streisand and Kristofferson in 1976.
In each, we watch an up-and-coming talent given a breakthrough opportunity by a veteran star on the downward slide amid a romance fraught with the kinds of conflicts you might expect. And, yet, despite its built-in predictability, audiences flock to this kind of movie because they want to see how each pair of actors will portray these cinematic archetypes.
In this one, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a kind of classic rock superstar and semi-guitar hero whose music mirrors the likes of Aerosmith, Journey or maybe Foreigner. He drinks too much, pops pills and yet somehow manages to thrill his audience with amazing riffs and tired hit songs.
One night after a gig, he and his chauffeur cruise around looking for a dive to top off the night and end up in a drag bar. In a nod to Gaga’s devoted gay following, her Ally appears on-stage vamping Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.”
Taken by her performance, Jack talks Ally into spending the rest of the evening with him chatting, sometimes singing and enjoying the first hints of the romance to come.
Ally works by day at a restaurant and lives with her dad, Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay), a chauffeur himself who likes to hang with his gambling pals. She thinks her evening with Jack was a fluke, but when he has her picked up and brought to one of his shows, she is astonished when he invites her onstage to sing an arrangement of a song she shared with him in a parking lot the night before.
And, so it begins.
The thing that makes Gaga so relatable is that she avoids the kind of calculated performance one might expect of a seasoned actor. All of her actions in this movie seem natural, spontaneous and rooted in a connection to how a real person might react to sudden stardom.
In my opinion, if she ever wanted to drop the music gig, there’s a nice career as an actor out there for her.
Cooper’s character is also nicely etched, calling forth numerous moments that bring attention to current issues involving addiction and abuse and how fighting them is a constant battle. He also has a promising future behind the camera as well.
This film co-stars Sam Elliott, Dave Chapelle, Alec Baldwin, Ron Rifkin and Michael Harney.
Tempo grade: A-
MPAA rating: R for language throughout, some sexuality/ nudity and substance abuse.
This film screens daily starting Friday (Oct. 5) at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
MPAA rating: R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references
Taos Community Auditorium
Director Spike Lee's drama was produced by the team behind “Get Out” and offers another provocative exploration of American race relations. In the midst of the 1970s civil rights movement, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first black detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department.
He sets out to prove his worth by infiltrating the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and convinces his Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to go undercover as a white supremacist.
This film co-stars Alec Baldwin, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Robert John Burke and Laura Harrier.
This film screens at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 7) and 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 8-10) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres
Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake's experiments, Eddie's body merges with the alien Venom -- leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
This film screens daily starting Friday (Oct. 5) at Mitchell Storyteller Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.
In order to read our site, please exit private/incognito mode or log in to continue.