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“A Star is Born” is a beautiful reflection of the cost of celebrity

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star is Born" from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Movies about stardom tend to be too self-aggrandizing. “Maybe Hollywood isn’t interested in making fine art, but hey, we are!” is usually how the script goes. Now, peppered with some song and dance, and boy have you got a mediocre picture. It’s just that films of that nature don’t have anything important to say aside from the happy Hollywood ending the story already told.

From the start of “A Star is Born” it’s clear from Bradley Cooper’s lamentation at the beginning of the film -- that success is having talent but “also having something to say” -- that we’re in for a different kind of cinematic experience. We’re in for a ride of laughs, of shortfalls, of successes and of failures, but most principally we’re in to hear something new and fresh be said on the nature of stardom.

“A Star is Born” centers on washed-up musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) as he continues to spiral downward in his stardom as a result of addiction. It is on one fortuitous night when on the prowl for more alcohol that Maine finds himself in a drag bar that happens to let one real female perform because she’s that good. Ally, played by the wondrous pop star Lady Gaga dazzles Maine with her sheer talent and disposition. The two make a great onscreen pairing: the chemistry is palpable, if not at times a tad awkward.

The film chronicles their raucous love affair as Ally rises into stardom and Jackson fades. That dynamic—the simultaneous rise and fall occurring—is one of the elements that makes the film so compelling. How can we root for one of them to succeed if it means another has to fail? Both Cooper and Gaga play their parts incredibly well. Gaga is a more shy, reserved singer-songwriter hoping to make as much of her talent as she can, and Cooper is a disillusioned legend of rock who’s quick to warn Ally of the pitfalls of celebrity reminding her that talent is only as important as what she has to say.

This critic knows nothing of the deep intricacies of music only to say when something is perhaps good or bad. The musical set pieces are a marvel, truly. They don’t feel forced as a way to pawn off the movie soundtrack: the songs and their respective cinematic set pieces add to the overall experience in an amazingly positive way. My advice however: shy away from listening to the music beforehand seeing the film. A part of the joy comes from hearing and seeing it in the context of the movie.

What is most surprising is how beautifully this film is shot. The emotion is heightened with just perfect angles and cuts. The concert set pieces benefit from the best techniques from music videos and film.

Perhaps tied for the most surprising element of this film through is how much of a resounding directorial debut success this is for Cooper. True kudos must be given to him here for an effort that pays off tenfold. It’s a film of emotional highs and lows—it will roil you and hit you at your core. But most importantly it’s a film that actually says something: that should be reason enough to see it.

Grade: A-

“A Star is Born” will be in theaters Friday, October 5

Jrobbins@theeagleonline.com


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