Review: A Star Is Born

We're far from the shallow now.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a popular musician going from gig to gig with a bottle of whiskey in hand. After a show, desperate for a drink, he wanders into a drag bar and sees Ally (Lady Gaga) perform a beautiful rendition of La Vie En Rose. Smitten with her voice, he pushes her to sing her own songs, to get up on stage with him, and eventually turns her into a super star. 

We all knew Bradley Cooper was a solid actor. Turns out he's a solid singer and director too. At this point I'm not sure there's anything he can't do. Jackson is a very showy role for him and it really feels like he's really stepping out of his comfort zone. Lady Gaga is also great here. She was the biggest question mark for me. Obviously I knew she'd be dynamite the minute she started singing and she was, but the acting I wasn't sold on. She struggles here and there with the more dramatic bits, but this is her 3rd acting role. It's to be expected. 

I think this film is fine. There are parts that work well. When Ally and Jack sing "The Shallow" together for the first time, and every time Ally is behind a piano singing her songs after that, those moments are beautiful. The rest is typical melodrama with some Sam Elliott platitudes but it's never once bad or boring. But there's one thing that really bothered me that stopped me from going - for lack of a better word - gaga over this. 

Ally and Jackson's relationship has a power imbalance that made me uncomfortable. He's not abusive and Ally is not completely without agency, but it's always Jackson pushing her to do something. Yes, he gets her on stage for the first time and makes her realize her dream. That's fine, but it's the little things that follow. Like passing out drunk after a show, then waking her up for sex on his time. Like smearing cake over her face that is then played as something cute. To proposing after a fight - then getting married all in the span of about two hours. The most egregious parts happen in the last 20 minutes or so of the film, and those I won't spoil. I felt like Jackson didn't give her any choices. He makes every one for her. I know the film is supposed to be a meditation on fame, and how as Ally's star grows she gets less and less control, but I didn't think that was supposed to happen with the relationship they're choosing to sell this movie on as well. It just rubbed me the wrong way. 

I might be alone in that complaint, but this film is good and the soundtrack is extremely catchy.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "There should be a whole billboard of your fucking nose" - Jackson (Bradley Cooper)

14 comments:

  1. I completely forgot about the cake moment until now. As much as I loved the movie I agree with you completely on that one scene, I didn't know how to interpret it and it made me a bit uncomfortable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, they played it off as amusing but had that been me, I would've been livid.

      Delete
  2. Nice review! I kind of agree and disagree about the power imbalance. I felt like the cake scene was supposed to make us feel uncomfortable to show what kind of person Jackson is when he's drunk versus when he's supportive and sober...so I didn't really have a problem with it. But the sex scene creeped me out. As far back as her father and old boss, I felt like Ally is used to going along with what men want and being afraid to speak up for herself no matter who they are, especially her manager. I've never been in a relationship with someone who is an addict, but I felt like the most agency Ally might feel like she has with Jackson, which is the same things Bobby did, is just to not be around him when he's drunk and keep working. And then when he's sober, they're kind of wrapped up in each other enough to just do anything. The very last frame makes me think she's the one calling all the shots from now on, and that would've been great to see more of.

    Sorry I didn't mean for this comment to turn into a novel! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I love your thoughtful comment! I think you're right about the agency thing, but the fact that Ally was that way with her dad and manager AND Jack just felt like too much. And her being in control that the end is a bit too little too late. Jack didn't give her the chance to get that herself in a healthy manner, he forced her hand.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one that sex scene bothered I never, under any circumstances want to wake up to someone feeling me up. Ever. lol. I was projecting a little there.

      Delete
  3. I do want to see this and i know i will be comparing this to Judy Garland's, "A Star Is Born," But in that movie, although he helped her out and got her to where she is, that movie also showed how strong a person she was and , despite him being a jerk on occasion and an alcoholic, she still wanted to be Mrs. Norman Maine. I would never want to be woken up by being groped...he would be singing soprano after that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it just bothered me. I haven't seen Judy Garland's version of this either, I've only seen clips of the musical numbers.

      Delete
  4. I do want to see this but I want to see the other versions of the film from before and hopefully do a compare/contrast take on all four versions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be an interesting post to read. I haven't seen all of the versions of this either.

      Delete
  5. interesting. i didn't see it as a meditation on fame, but rather a look at a relationship that crumbles under the weight of his feelings of inadequacy. also, i have NEVER seen bradley cooper act this well before. this is the most believable, most raw he's ever been.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's about that too, though again it's all about HIM and not her. I agree about Cooper, he's the clear star here.

      Delete
  6. I like this movie less and less the more I think about it, precisely for the reasons you mention. For all that she's presented as a strong, independent woman, the film itself only seems to care about Ally in terms of her relationship to Jackson, and that makes me a little queasy. Gaga is really good though, and Cooper is GREAT, maybe even the best he's ever been. I don't get the level of love for this at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EXACTLY! I'm with you. Jay over at Assholes Watching Movies called his a vanity project for Cooper and it really is. Nothing is actually *about* Ally here.

      Delete

If you're reading this sentence you should probably leave a comment.