I rarely watch movies in the theater. Instead, I put my name on the hold list at the library and watch them when my name comes up. That means I’m often watching movies years after everyone else. Sometimes I remember to put my name on this list early and get a movie shortly after it goes to DVD, which is why I’m writing about A Star is Born now.
I realize most people were talking about this Bradley Cooper remake six months ago, but I just had to put my two cents in. If you are one of the few people who haven’t seen it yet and are still unspoiled you may want to stop reading now. There are some spoilers ahead.
I have not seen the other versions of the film although it was hard to go anywhere as a child and not see the album for the 1976 version with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The image of the two naked stars in an embrace was both confusing and disturbing to the young version of myself. Although the 2018 version was updated, in some ways it feels as old-fashioned as that sepia-toned album cover.
I understand the story of A Star Is Born all hinges on a more successful man bringing up a younger female star as his career wanes, but I found the early scenes between Cooper playing Jackson Maine and Lady Gaga playing Ally to be unbelievable. I didn’t really see much chemistry in their first all-night date, in which we learn Maine is a drunk with a heart of gold, and Ally is a talented singer who has been overlooked because of her looks.
There is also implausibility in their interaction. When Ally sings a song she’s working on for Jackson in the parking lot of supermarket it made me cringe. Also, since it was just a few lines of the song, I didn’t believe he would be able to commit the lyrics or music to memory, which is important for the next plot point.
Not only does he remember, but has taught it to his band and is ready to sing it the next night at his concert. As Ally watches backstage, where she has been flown by private jet, he tells her he wants her to sing it.
Really? She’s only performed standards in front of a bar crowd before, but now she’s supposed to perform her song in front of an arena of fans. Oh, that’s right. Jackson is unpredictable. He would do that. What a rapscallion.
When Ally waivers, Jackson tells her he’s going to sing it anyway and starts to sing the song. Halfway through she joins him onstage at an extra microphone which happens to be on, and the crowd (who has no idea who she is) loves it. She does amazing and does not crack.
The next scene is Ally cursing Jackson out about boundaries. She tells him how it was inappropriate for him to manipulate her into coming on stage. She tells him he did not have the right to steal her song.
Of course, that does not happen. No one wants to see that, right? Instead, Ally is a hit. Everyone on YouTube says so. She’s in the band! People love watching these two make out on stage.
But. She might even be better than Jackson. He’s an alcoholic and his career is on the decline. This relationship didn’t exactly start under the best circumstances.
You know the rest.
But I Did Cry
As for what’s to like about the film, I typically don’t listen to Lady Gaga music but do have a few of her songs on my digital playlist. I have somehow avoided hearing too much of “Shallow”, but found the keynote song likable enough.
I also have to admit I did cry after Jackson’s death. I cried when she was sitting with Sam Elliott, who plays his brother Bobby Maine. He tells Ally it wasn’t her fault. There seemed something real in this line. He also says:
“Jack talked about how music is essentially 12 notes between any octave
Twelve notes, and the octave repeats. It’s the same story, told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes.”
Of course, this is a take on A Star Is Born itself, a story that’s been told over and over in slightly different ways. But it may be time for a new story. This story, like this review after so much time, may be irrelevant now.