“I think you might be a songwriter. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody. But I’m not very good at keeping secrets.”
Some plots are so great that they endure through generations. A Star is Born is one of those. Originally made in 1937, then remade in 1954, then remade again in 1976, then actually remade in India as Aashiqui 2 in 2013, it’s just been remade again in 2018, and it is every bit as amazing as you would expect a movie that was remade four times to be. In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper directs and stars (and co-wrote the script), and musician Lady Gaga co-stars (not her acting debut—she’s done some television shows before). So when this film was announced, audiences had two questions: Can Lady Gaga act? Can Bradley Cooper direct? It’s hard to say after one film because a big part of the answer to both of those questions is range, but I will say that both did an amazing job with this film. The film feels raw and real, and both Cooper and Gaga put on amazing performances. Also, as a musician myself, I was quite pleased with the musical performances in this film. This is a top-notch film that will go down as one of the best remakes in history, and it’s a powerful story that’s totally deserving of all the hype it’s getting right now.
The plot follows Jackson Maine, a seasoned country music star, as he meets and falls in love with Ally, an aspiring singer and songwriter who never really made it in the music industry. Ally reluctantly shows Jackson a song she wrote, but Jackson has to take off to play a show in another city. Ally is surprised when Jackson sends a car for her to come to the show—and then more surprised when Jackson’s band begins playing her song and he coaxes her up on stage to sing for the crowd. The crowd goes wild, videos go viral, and Ally’s big break finally arrives. As she transitions her life into the music industry, Jackson’s life begins spiraling out of control due to alcoholism and some other issues, and the two struggle in their personal relationship even more than their professional lives.
All you got is you and what you have to say to people, and they are listening right now, and they are not going to be listening forever.
The most impressive thing about this film to me was how real everything felt. The relationship between Ally and Jackson felt natural, including Ally’s insecurities. Cooper’s portrayal of Jackson’s alcoholism was painfully real, no doubt coming from his past struggles with substance abuse. Jackson’s subtle insistence on connecting with his fans and staying real are things most musicians struggle with. The dialogue all felt natural. This is a plot that could have easily been contrived, artificial, and formulaic, and it’s none of those things. Cooper and Gaga did an amazing job bringing this concept to life and this is a success on every level.
Cooper and Gaga also went to great lengths to make sure the music felt authentic. In early conversations, Gaga told Cooper that she hated when actors lip-synched, as the vocals never quite lined up with the actors’ movements, so she insisted all vocals were recorded live as they were filming. This presented a major challenge to Cooper, who wasn’t really a singer or guitarist before preparing for this film. He approached Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) to train him on how to play guitar and act like a musician, and he went through extensive vocal training to learn how to sing. (Lukas Nelson’s band ended up being Jackson Maine’s backing band in the film.) As a result, the musical performances in the movie are amazingly realistic. As I said, I’m a musician, so I was looking for things that weren’t correct and I couldn’t find any. The songs, mostly written by Gaga and Mark Ronson (who wrote and produced “Uptown Funk,” among many others), are also great and would do well on their own even if this film was never released. This is a film for everyone, but it’s definitely a great film for musicians or music buffs.
I actually went to see this film with my wife for our anniversary. I’ll say right now: this is not a heartwarming film about the triumph of love (so it’s probably not a great choice for anniversaries). It has those moments, of course, but that’s not the overall tone. It’s about painfully real insecurities and brokenness, and you’ll really feel for these characters as they struggle through those things. I loved the film and will probably watch it again as soon as it’s released online, but it’s a very heavy film at times.
A Star is Born is an amazing drama and romance story that touches on many themes: the sacrifice artists make for their art, love between two broken people, how alcoholism can wreck lives, and how artists can struggle to be true to themselves as fame starts dictating how they should live. It’s rated R and definitely not for the kids, but I think just about any adult will find something to love in this powerful and very real film.
Director: Bradley Cooper
Genres: drama, music, romance
Movies Like A Star is Born
- Walk the Line – A great music biopic about classic country artist Johnny Cash and his relationship with June Carter. With great musical performances (also sung live) and a very similar story, this is about as close as you can get to A Star is Born.
- Old A Star is Born versions – Remember, this movie is a remake of a remake of a remake. The original came out in 1937, was remade in 1954, and remade again in 1976. And India made their own version of this entitled Aashiqui 2, which I hear is excellent (although I haven’t seen it).