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A Star Is Born (2018) Review

By Kat Green – Superfriend of All Things Movies

The fourth iteration of A Star Is Born hit cinemas early this month. First hitting the big screen in Hollywood’s Golden Era 1937, it later served as a comeback for Judy Garland in 1954 and then again in 1976 starring Barbara Streisand; each entry more of a reimagining than a true remake.

This version is no different. Using the formula of its predecessors, it tells the story of an accomplished man who falls for a young, talented woman, expediting her musical career while his own crumbles around him. This contemporary rendition brings relevance to the story; throwing the audience headfirst into a musical world of sold-out performances, hoards of adoring fans and glamorous photo shoots – juxtaposed against an endearing yet grounded love story fit for the modern age.

The performances of veteran actor Bradley Cooper and debut leading actress Lady Gaga are outstanding. Stripped back from her usual extreme persona, Gaga’s ‘Ally’ walks a tightrope between emotional strength and unsure fragility, mirrored perfectly by Cooper’s gritty portrayal of ‘Jackson’, the hugely successful, if not troubled rockstar.

The presentation is near faultless, impressive for a first-time director, producer and co-lyricist of a feature film and is a credit to Cooper’s natural talent. The direction is evocative, the script accomplished and the editing incredibly generous. The narrative is inventive, subtly handling themes of love, loyalty, inspiration and escapism – as well as tackling the big question; is staying true to who you are the best recipe for success?

As a fan of structure, I like a film to have a defined beginning middle and end. A Star is Born plays with these constructs, blurring the lines between where one part leaves off and the next begins. Although this does serve to make the movie play like a snapshot in our protagonists’ story, a consequence is that the production is made to feel somewhat longer than the already substantial runtime. On balance however, this affords crucial screen-time for each character to make their mark, ultimately achieving an even more poignant impact when the story meets its somber climax.

Of course, no comment on this film would be complete without mentioning the music. Lyricist Lukas Nelson collaborates seamlessly with Cooper and Gaga to create a cornucopia of catchy numbers, most of which are performed live on set and all serving to enhance and drive the story forward.

Cooper gives a surprising musical performance, showing off a voice previously unheard from the actor. It’s old news that Gaga has an phenomenal set of lungs on her, but her unexpectedly raw and organic quality carries through the film, culminating in a heartbreaking finale, leaving barely a dry eye in the audience.

In short, A Star Is Born is an absolute gem. On first watch, I left feeling numb, my mind desperately trying to compartmentalise the experience. After letting it sit, the sheer beauty of the work rears its head. It’s a brilliantly brutal journey, marked by the feats of its rookie creators, that only gets better with a second watch (believe me). Certainly one to keep in mind once Oscar Season gets into full swing.

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