Review: A Star is Born


There’s a lot that goes into the making of a good romance movie, and frankly, romantic films seem to be sparse in the past couple of years. But A Star is Born, released October 5, 2018, hit a lot of sweet spots for audiences across the country. Produced by, directed by, and starring Bradley Cooper, this film was an artful mix of music and acting, playing off themes of family, love, friendship, and fame. But, underlying the romantic appeal of the movie are internal conflicts, culminating in a tear-soaked ending. Once you get over the fact that Bradley Cooper can sing (well enough to perform a duet with Lady Gaga) and lower his voice an entire octave, it’s easy to appreciate the plot line, cinematography, and acting in this movie.

In the past four years or so, the criteria with which movies are analyzed has shifted from a simple analysis of storyline and well-developed characters to consideration of a social cause. This transition is fitting, considering the current atmosphere of political controversy and tension. However, this change has also made it more difficult for simple romantic or comedy movies to make it big in Hollywood. Movies now nominated for Oscars are commonly tethered to a dynamic political or societal movement in debate, either in present day or throughout history. Movies like Black Panther and Greenbook have succeeded largely because their underlying societal critiques seem to resonate with viewers across the world. A Star is Born was an outlier in the lineup of Best Picture Oscar nominees for this reason, and most likely one of the primary reasons it didn’t stand a chance against other nominated films.

But, attached to a social cause or not, this movie was exciting, heartbreaking, and felt tangibly real to the viewer. The story surrounds the rise of Ally (Lady Gaga) as a singer-songwriter after famous rock-country artist Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) recognizes her talent. The movie follows their romance as Ally’s career takes off and Jack’s goes stagnant from age and alcoholism.

One of the most admirable aspects of this movie was the on-screen chemistry between Jack and Ally. Their relationship feels genuine, not manufactured for the screen. The two characters also have compelling individual stories that allow the viewer to dig deep into concepts that go beyond their romance. Jack struggles with being an alcoholic with fading fame, and Ally is self-deprecating, held back by her past of being told that she’s not good enough, not pretty enough. The way Jack and Ally’s personal hardships intertwine with the overarching plot allows the movie to speak to a variety of themes that every audience can relate to.

While the acting and quality of characters carry the storyline, it is the music that truly allows Ally and Jack’s romance feel tangible. From the very moment that they sing together in a dimly lit parking lot outside of a supermarket, the viewer can feel the connection between them. Reflected in iTunes ratings, an Oscar win for the song Shallow and several other awards, Cooper and Gaga clearly made a hit when they opted to pair up for this movie, cinematically and musically. The musical scenes were all filmed live, communicating the intimacy between the characters seamlessly.

While A Star is Born might not have taken home an Oscar for Best Picture, it was successful in reviving the classic romantic drama that so many audiences have come to appreciate over the years. It might have made a deeper societal impact by tethering its themes to a social cause, but this film was a call to more basic and timeless emotional reactions, ones that resonate with almost anyone.