Director: Bradley Cooper
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, William A. Wellman (original story), Joan Didion (original 1976 screenplay), Frank Pierson (1976 screenplay), Moss Heart (1954 screenplay), John Gregory Dunn
Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay
“A Star Is Born” completely captured me in the moment. The first strike of the guitar from Jack (Bradley Cooper) captivated every sense in my body and from that point on I was taken by this experience. I fell in love Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jack and their heartbreaking struggle through life. It’s a special film.
It’s also an incredibly made film from Bradley Cooper, in his directorial debut. Every aspect of the filmmaking process to the set designs, costumes, cinematography, casting, writing, sound-design, masterful editing, and legendary performances from both Cooper and Gaga come together and captivate. It all culminates into this beautiful relationship between two people that bring out the best in each other. It’s a masterful film that tears you to shreds emotionally but also shows the extreme high-points.
And where would this film be without the incredible score from Cooper and Gaga? The music drives every aspect of this film and out of these real performances the music feels from the heart and authentic. All their motivations are wonderfully captured in their music as Jack was able to push Ally to her potential. Watching how emotionally impacted Jack is when he first hear Ally (an unbelievably memorable moment from Cooper and Gaga) and he sheds a tear. The entire audience was feeling those same emotions towards Ally during that first song at the drag club. She steals our attention and doesn’t give it back.
At the core of “A Star Is Born” is this incredibly complicated yet ever longing relationship that feels as if it’s entirely organic. The characters from the moment they lay eyes on each other, in that brilliant moment with the sparkling close-up that connects the two, are destined to be together. The performances are so good and believable that it never feels as if it’s two actors. Each moment is tangible and their relationship is so pure, which makes the ending of this film so unimaginably devastating.
The editing also caught my attention, as it was such a perfect mix of the music, ambient sound, dialogue, and hard cuts that intentionally jar you out of emotional scenes and away from concert scenes. There was a certain fluidity to the editing that appropriately cut during important moments, but also let many scenes play out to their logical conclusion even if it might living through the realistic dialogue scenes in the film that are powerful. The editing and cinematography give the audience an inside look at Jack’s addiction abuse that Ally is unaware of. His jealousy and overwhelming love for her are shown subtlety at times though camera work and editing.
The idea of living as a mega-star in this year-and-age where the world treats celebrities as something more than human. “A Star Is Born” explores this idea in depth, as well as trying to understand addiction and the small triggers that can send dangerous users on a dark path. In the first act, alcoholism drives his character forward, but as his character grows alongside Ally his dependancy shrinks, but his character always feels as if he’s a ticking time bomb. Learning to cope with embarrassment or shame or self-doubt is a major theme. The Grammy scene will always stick out in my mind as a visual representation of rock-bottom.
From the Ally perspective, she’s more well-rounded with a good head on her shoulders. Her problems with her personal life, the industry, and her career is her upbringing and instant stardom. It brings up the question of her nose, which is a major story point in the film, and how she wasn’t pretty enough to make it despite her angel voice. It’s also the career Jack help make is tearing them away from each other and trying to deal with her fame as opposed to how Jack originally sees her. And maybe the best part of the film and why it hits so hard emotionally is because the love is so real between these characters and all the outside influences are tiring to break that up.
The love shared bleeds into each song and is a driving force behind the film. As the music loses that tenderness and heartfeltness when Gaga makes it big, the emotional toll on the relationship is amplified as is all of Jack’s struggles with addiction. It’s a perfectly balanced story of authentic love, intense musical performances, and the hidden toll that this type of life takes on a person. Cooper’s character is hidden in plain sight and it’s a look into the struggles of addiction through the eyes of someone who seemingly has life figured out. Jack’s entire backstory is real heartbreak, and nothing is more heartfelt than his relationship with his brother, Bobby (Sam Elliot), who understands his problems better than anyone and brings out that dark past from Jack.
Cooper and Gaga obviously deserve all the praise, but Sam Elliot’s emotional performance was nearly just as good. Each moment he’s on screen, the dramatic pathos is amplified to the max. The sorrowful moments between Jack and Bobby are incredibly well executed and the long-time bond between these two boils to the surface. The last conversation they have in the film is one of the best moments in a film filled with some of the most unforgettable moments in film I can ever remember.
And this brings me to the writing of the script and delivery of those lines. The dialogue is so genuine and the performances make it real for the audience. Jack’s not the smartest character, and him fumbling around in his own mind for the right thing to say is so perfect in this film. It feels as if we peered in from above to watch to people who understand each other at a human level interact. The same nervousness Gaga feels in the first act is passed on to us through her true reactions. The writing brings out the best in both these characters because it fully understands how these characters talk and interact in different situations. The character development is world-class in this script.
But, moving on without touching on Libatique’s work on this film would be a disservice. On top of the intense back lighting that gets unbelievable dramatic shots, Libatique constantly finds different ways to elevate the look of the film through the camera. Add on a memorable color palette that ranges from every color, to the swooping camera movements that spotlight the actors perfectly, it’s damn fine cinematography work. His portait shots and close-ups are of the highest quality here. He REALLY captures the characters emotions visually. Stunning work from a industry legend.
As for awards consideration, “A Star is Born” deserves a look in almost every important category. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film absolutely nail every aspect of the filmmaking. It all comes together in this film and the experience completely takes over. My tall tale sign of a great film is hoping it never ends and I never wanted to leave these characters or story. Invested doesn’t cover the full scope of how enthralled and entertained I was by this film. A masterful piece of art, in every sense.
If I’m being honest, one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s scene after scene of powerful, impactful moments. Even the quieter scenes are memorable because of Gaga and Cooper’s performances. And the music was just absolutely phenomenal and perfectly edited into the film to help get the emotional backdrop as well as those emotions coming out through their music. It’s beautiful, devastatingly heartbreaking, cold, warm, and overall a special experience that will always stick with me.