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The 400-Word Review: A Star is Born

The high-profile remake is a good, old-fashioned movie musical with a lot to offer.




Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
 

A Star is Born” is either a callous, unpleasant bad-idea of a movie, or it is a moving and spellbinding work of pop art. I wouldn’t quibble with anyone who felt either way.

Which route you choose, in your own analysis, largely depends on how you interpret the last two seconds of the film.

Obviously, I can’t get into that detail; I’m pretty sure, by any definition, discussing the last photograph of a 135-minute film counts as a spoiler. So here’s the good news: “A Star is Born” is a good, old-fashioned movie of a movie, a dramatic and watchable spectacle of celebrity, performance and soap-opera drama. If you like it, you’ll love it. If you hate it, you’ll still think about watching it a second time.

The fourth cinematic take on a story that dates back to 1937, “A Star is Born” concerns a pop-music downfall and a simultaneous ascendance. Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, also the film’s director) is a crossover country star with rock-guitar chops and a few big problems: He’s an alcoholic, he’s addicted to pills, he’s got a dark past and he’s going deaf. (It’s the “Behind the Music” grab-bag!) Upon wandering into a drag bar after another sold-out show, he catches a performance by chanteuse Ally (Lady Gaga), belting “La Vie En Rose” between acts; romance and artistic interest blossom simultaneously, and Ally swiftly finds herself on the road with Mayne.

You can accurately guess at the beats from that point forward, as Ally becomes a star (with all the milestones of modern music stardom) and Mayne becomes a Nashville-cliche drunk. Not to worry, though; as soon as Gaga performs “La Vie En Rose” amid sequins and boas, you’ve more than got your money’s worth.

The performances are stellar, the kind of restrained heart-wringers from the ’70s and ’80s dramas Cooper is clearly imitating, both behind and in front of the camera. Cooper is great, and Gaga is excellent; in a vital supporting role, Sam Elliott turns in an indelible, heartbreaking performance.

From an unkind lens, “A Star is Born” is melodramatic misery porn, putting Ally through undue hell to keep us enthralled. I’m a bit more intrigued by the other reading of the film, however — the one in which that final shot makes the audience reconsider everything that has come before.

Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

My Rating: 8/10
 

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