A Star is Born (2018)
It’s really best when I let a movie simmer in my mind before I try to write about it. After watching all four A Star is Born’s (not an easy thing to say, I’ve found), the new film felt immaculate stylistically and stripped a fair bit of husband worship from the film, and I was enthralled. From Matthew Libatique’s perfectly hued concerts and the nervous excitement of the first performance of “Shallow,” Bradley Cooper’s reinterpretation is more cohesive than Judy’s and Lady Gaga’s musical progression makes far more sense than Barbra’s. I feel like it could have been the start to Gaga’s career if that connection could ever happen in real life.
Unfortunately Lady Gaga’s popstar rise as Ally, her character is sidelined in favor of the more dramatic downfall of Bradley Cooper’s alcoholic, drug addicted Jackson Maine. The early lack of confidence highlighted in the trailer’s nears the end of Ally’s development as she tackles with her talent hidden behind a large nose. Once she breaks through with an impromptu, utterly gripping performance of future Oscar-winning song “Shallow” and a beautifully captured piano-based performance of “Always Remember Us This Way” where we see Lady Gaga’s captured performance looming over Cooper in the rhythm section. After her career begins, we stop seeing anything from her character, making Glenn Close’s chance this fall more plausible. It’s exciting to see that her performance in American Horror Story: Hotel–which won her an acting Golden Globe to which Leonardo DiCaprio laughed at in the shittiest move of the last 40 years–was just as flat as the rest of that season, and with a role she can dig into, there’s some real acting talent. A bathtub verbal lashing is a later moment that allows her to shine, but Ally takes backseat to Cooper’s descent.
And it’s a juicy descent. One of the most difficult parts of men directing themselves, particularly early in their career, is a tendency to glorify themselves (imagine it: male ego captured on film; how could they avoid glory: looking at you Chris Evans in Before We Go and John Krasinski in The Hollars). Bradley Cooper went the other way, full character and man on the downfall. Between the gravel voice–contending with older brother Sam Elliott, an influence of regret further drowning Cooper in a shallow tumbler–and the embarrassing behavior, the director and co-writer may have delivered his greatest role. He is drunkenly enamored with Ally until she usurps his spotlight, and the hateful energy drips out like every Norman Maine before him. During the demise of their relationship, Gaga becomes the devoted wife with a bit more gumption than her predecessors, but Bradley Cooper adds a full on man in decline that the previous iterations likely couldn’t breach. It’s not quite the stellar recreation I could have hoped for, but A Star is Born 2018 allows for growth on a time-worn story without breaking the mold.
Lee shifted styles scene by scene: the silhouetted faces of students being inspired to revolution, cut sequences to balance the Klans’ viewing of D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation with the student union’s solemn attention to recollections of the worst that film inflamed. BlacKKKlansman could have been better serviced by a more rhythmic editor, and the cinematography from Beyonce’s Lemonade contributor Chayse Irvin drowned out scenes more than it expanded their impact. The film rose above visual perfection and produced a rough, memorable, impactful vision of American race. Jordan Peele’s power as producer, helping to bring this powerful of a film to White America, may prove unstoppable. From Alec Baldwin’s flubbed hilarity in the opening to the Charlotteville footage proving that America hasn’t changed as much as 2008-2016 fooled us into believing, BlacKKKlansman will stand as one of the best films of 2018.