Courtesy of Warner Bros.

October 11, 2018

A Star is Born Shines Dully

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Right off the bat I’ll save you a Google — that really is Bradley Cooper singing. Damn son. I mean of course Lady Gaga can sing; she’s Lady Gaga, but . . . damn.

Anyway, the first 45 minutes or so of A Star is Born were spectacular — and shout out to Cornell Cinema for letting me see those 45 minutes (and the rest of ’em) a full two days early. Some basic plot (no spoilers — this is trailer stuff): the film’s plot sees Cooper’s character, a country music star battling addiction, “discover” and subsequently fall for Gaga (is “Gaga” her last name? I’m gonna roll with it . . . ). The two begin to tour together and Gaga’s career quickly surpasses that of Cooper’s “Jack” in step with an escalation in the severity of Jack’s alcoholism. And despite what I thought to be an admirable cinematic debut from Lady Gaga coupled with stellar acting and directing (especially with regard to the music scenes) from Cooper, the dichotomy created between Gaga’s rise Cooper’s fall felt . . . well, created.

A Star is Born just wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. I let myself cheat a bit with trailers, and from what I saw, I thought I was in for another run-of-the-mill salvation story — Gaga’s character would “save” Cooper’s and everyone would walk out happy because love won the day.  Heck, the trailer even showed him walking into what I thought was an AA meeting. This movie really surprised me by it choosing a path less travelled, postulating that perhaps things aren’t so easy and that happy endings aren’t realistic. But in taking this riskier shot, it missed.

What I think A Star is Born was going for, and what it was so close to being, was an unrelenting, gritty and focused character study on a man who’s finally gone off the deep end, but I could never shake the feeling that someone had made the decision to put what could have been an Oscar-worthy story arc on the backburner.

There didn’t need to be jokes in this movie — the assumption that the American people won’t flock to theaters unless we baby them into feeling good about themselves is reductive and, quite frankly, a little insulting. What separates great movies from good ones is their willingness to rise above appealing to the lowest common denominator — if you’ve got something meaningful to say, and A Star is Born clearly did, just fucking say it. Movies need not speak softly around their big stick — Cooper’s character clearly had a lot of issues worth exploring, so why were we so worried about Gaga’s reservations about pop music choreography? Why, when we could be delving into the wound Jack’s father’s suicide opened, are we spending time discussing the color of Gaga’s hair?

I’m by no means dismissing the points the movie made about the music industry — the challenge facing women trying to break into show business is certainly an unfair one and one worth discussing, but if that’s the direction the film wanted to go in, it shouldn’t have limited that commentary to a series of brief, if not spunky (in lieu of being really empowering) asides.

I waited — well, actually I kinda got to skip the line because journalism is power . . . but, uh . . . other people waited – in a line up two flights of stairs and out the door of Willard Straight because A Star is Born’s trailers promised us real, focused emotion. But in splitting my attention across a smattering of different tangents, it more or less lost me.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but Gaga’s character was sad at the end of the movie and I think my whole issue boils down to the fact that I couldn’t fully comprehend why – there was too much going on, and all of it was given too little time (which is a knock on a movie with a runtime well over two hours) for me to truly feel her sadness with her.

This movie should have made me cry.

I mentioned Oscar-worthiness earlier because I just know this is gonna be one that nags at me in February similarly to how Darkest Hour, The Post or even Lady Bird did last year. That’s to say that A Star is Born is a fine film on its own two feet, and certainly one worth seeing if only to salivate over Cooper’s disheveled country star look, but realistically will be out of place among the other titles in consideration for best of the year come awards season.



Nick Smith is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].