Film buffs have seen this same story three times before in 1937, 1954 and 1976 — A country singer at the top of his game has to contend with drugs, alcohol, the price of fame and a condition causing him to lose his hearing, but takes time out of his busy tour schedule to launch the career of a young woman with musical talent. She excels quickly, appearing on Saturday Night Live, receiving multiple Grammy nominations and financial freedom… all the while his condition continues to decline. You can surmise the conclusion before the curtain closes but for the younger generation who never saw the prior renditions, the closing scenes might come as a surprise to them.
Over the past few weeks there were people who told me they were dead set against this remake; perhaps they lovingly embraced the 1954 Judy Garland rendition or the 1976 Barbara Streisand version. My general rule of thumb with remakes is this — good or bad, we will always have the original.
Having watched the prior renditions over the past years I was eager to see an updated take — and was pleased to see how this film excels on many levels. Bradley Cooper not only plays the male lead but also directs from behind the camera. As expected, Lady Gaga shines with strong vocals but also with an acting assignment that will no doubt reward her with an Oscar nomination for “Best Actress.” (She went all-in on this role — evident when she smashes a glass picture frame with her fist, which breaks into pieces and falls to the floor and you can tell that was real glass.) The chemistry between the two, however, is so evident that it cannot be overlooked — it has been years since I saw chemistry on the big screen.
Bradley Cooper gives what is clearly his best performance to date and proved that he is very much capable as a director. In most movies, Bradley Cooper plays Bradley Cooper — much like Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise in every movie he plays — but in A Star is Born, Cooper plays a role that makes you forget he was Bradley Cooper. This is talent that awards Oscars.
This may be October but the Oscar race launched this weekend with a film that will no doubt receive Oscar nominations for “Best Director,” “Best Screenplay,” “Best Actor,” “Best Actress,” “Best Song” and “Best Picture.” I have only seen two movies this year that warrant inclusion on the 2018 “must see” list. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers, was the first and A Star is Born is now the second.