Review – A Star is Born
A Star is Born is a good movie and if it looked compelling at all to you you should just watch it. It’s getting pretty universally praised and is sure to rake it in come awards season. Lady Gaga puts in a tremendous performance. The movie is going to be competing with itself for best original song.
I’m not here to tell you that though.
I’m here to work through why I didn’t love it, despite everything that is good about it. (Spoiler Warning)
And that starts with Bradley Cooper’s character, Jack. Jack is a piece of shit, and it frustrates me that this story is really about him. All the motion in the plot comes from his action; from finding Ally (Lady Gaga’s character) singing in a drag bar, to killing himself near the end of the film. He’s also the lens through which we see most of the movie.
When Ally goes the pop sellout route we get a little push back from her (she goes on stage without her backup dancers at first and she refuses to get he hair died blonde) but she mostly just goes along with it (soon she’s on SNL with backup dancers singing a butt song and has died her hair orange). The real thrust of the emotional turn here come from Jack, who begins to drink again when he sees her perform I’ve seen comments from the director that the song isn’t supposed to be bad, but a) I do think it’s a bad song and b) it’s effect on the plot is that it drives Jack to leave the room and start drinking again. It’s also performed after Jack gives Ally a stern talking to about it being important that she find something worth saying to people now that they’re paying attention. If that’s supposed to be her transition into pop stardom going well then it just did not work for me.
The movie kinda felt like it hated pop music to me. Which is an extremely weird feeling to get from something Lady Gaga is part of since the feeling I get from her stuff is often just how much she loves pop music.
The thing that makes this just frustrating instead of an actual deal breaker is how good Gaga and Cooper are, and how good their chemistry. A key part of the movie is that they have better chemistry when Jack is sober than when he’s drunk. Drinking is what creates the coincidence that leads to them meeting, but once they’re together the alcoholism is only a problem and impediment to their relationship.
One of my favorite parts of this movie are the scenes with Ally’s Dad (Andrew Dice Clay) and his friends. Those scenes are really fun. In fact a lot of this movie is very funny and fun, that’s why I liked it.
What I didn’t love is that this is a movie about an alcoholic whose alcoholism destroys him. That’s not so fun. A Star is Born is also a less good movie about alcoholism than another movie from this year: Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot. That movie was also about a miserable alcoholic and as such I found it a pretty miserable movie. Very well made, but not a good time. What I liked about A Star is Born was when it was a good time. I liked seeing Jack and Ally happy together.
I don’t like the way the movie ties Ally’s success to Jack’s alcoholism. The way the plot gets structured around that really feels like this is a story from the 1930s, which it is. Maybe if Jack had turned back to drink for reasons that had less to do with Ally’s success, or if Ally’s solo career seemed good or fun at all I would have liked the movie more. Or maybe I’m hopeless.
The best energy in this movie came from our leads performing together, their chemistry. The tragedy of the plot and Jack’s alcoholism just wasn’t compelling to me. That story felt like a relic, with none of the explosive energy I got from the romance itself.
I’m sorry but I’m going to have to give the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy Picture to Tag instead.
Thank You For Your Time.