Watson Reviews: A Star Is Born (Spoiler Free)

I’ve never seen the previous version because I have never seen a single Barbra Streisand movie.  I knew the story but I was eager to see Bradley Cooper directing himself and Lady Gaga in his directorial debut. From the commercials alone, I know I would love the music.  Would the story hold up as well?

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Jackson is an aging rock legend who hits the booze and pills way too hard.  Ally is an aspiring singer-songwriter who gets by as a waitress and a lounge singer.

When they meet in a drag bar where Ally is the only female they let perform, they begin a whirlwind romance in which Ally tastes a quick rise to fame and stardom.

But their romance is tested by Ally’s new fame and Jackson’s demons.

WHAT WORKED:

  • It’s all about the music!  Man, the music is amazing in this film.  It is that rock/crooner genre that immediately got added to my “Zen” playlist.  Obviously, this film is designed around the soundtrack, and because of the amazing music, the film starts off with a great foundation.
  • The leading man might be the best actor working today. Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) has been strong for nearly a decade.  He’s been nominated several times for Best Actor, and hopefully will be here as well.  This film was that one that kind of crossed him into the area where I just think he might be better than everyone else right now.  This film, and his work with David O Russell, Clint Eastwood, and as Rocket Racoon in the MCU put him in rare air. We’ll just pretend Aloha never happened…
  • The leading actress is likable and has great presence. I am conflicted on Lady Gaga’s performance.  There were some knocks on her, which I discuss below, but let me say that this movie is way better for her inclusion.  She is so likable and charming as the waitress turned popstar that I definitely want to see her in more films.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

  • Lady Gaga is good, but too new to acting to carry some of the heavier scenes. I really enjoy her performance, and obviously she shines in the concert scenes where she appears most comfortable, but in the most important moments you can tell she is new to acting.  She is getting a lot of buzz for Best Actress, but I don’t see it.  I thought there were moments, such as the one pictured below, where it is very apparent she is acting.
  • The story really peaks a little early. The beginning of the film, when they are starting to perform together and do most of the great songs from the soundtrack, is so amazing that maybe it unfairly makes the second half seem a little dry by comparison.
  • Their romance seems a little rushed. Even with a 2:17 minute run time, which might have been 10 minutes too long, the film doesn’t spend enough time making you understand how they fell so deeply in love so quickly.  I know it can happen fast, but their love seemed to really revolve around them just liking to sing together.  They go straight from having fun to quickly falling in love to Jackson falling to pieces at her success.  It felt rushed and maybe they could have cut Andrew Dice Clay’s scenes, which WERE funny but not critical, to spend more time on what they liked about each other.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This is a film that is mostly about the music so it starts out high.  The rest of the film is a little choppy but I still enjoyed it.  Cooper’s strong performance as the aging rockstar and Gaga’s amazement at her changing world makes for a compelling enough film to keep you engaged between musical numbers.

Overall, I give A Star Is Born a score of 8.5“Gut Wrenching Songs” out of 10.

Correction: I called the 1970s version the original for some reason. Obviously, it was the third take on the material. I blame Streisand.

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