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Review: A Star Is Born (2018)

We do not deserve Lady Gaga.

My name is Luke Elisio and I would like to report a crime.

In 2016, at the 88th Academy Awards, Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta was burglarized when Sam Smith stole her Oscar for Best Original Song. We could have spent the last two years happily referring to her as, “Academy Award-winner Lady Gaga,” but because of one moderately successful British crooner, we were blindsided. Two years, people. That’s time I’ll never get back. However, because God and Hollywood work in mysterious ways, it’s 2018 and Gaga is currently starring in a movie that may not only land her a trophy for Best Original Song, but Best Actress as well. Take that, Sam Smith.

The movie in question is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born, the fourth iteration of the musical love story in which Cooper stars as the veteran rock star, opposite Gaga’s blossoming ingenue.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 11.06.34 AM
Credit: IMDb / Warner Bros. Pictures

First of all, I have to say that I’m pretty cheesed at the movie theatre. Right in the middle of the coming attractions, when I should be finishing my popcorn and rolling my eyes at whatever Gerard Butler movie I’ll have no intention of seeing, they have the gaul to play a Ford commercial. Excuse me, that is not supposed to happen, commercial time is supposed to be over. I just sat through 12 minutes of Scotiabank and Coke ads, I don’t need to be swayed into buying a Ford when I should be swayed into seeing Mary Poppins Returns (2018). It went on for so long that at one point my mom turned to me and said, “I honestly forgot why we were here.” Ugh, bullshit.

Anyway, A Star Is Born. Oh wow you guys, this movie. The buzz surrounding it has been insane, so much so, that there were many people who thought there was no way it could possibly live up to the hype. Well, let me be the first to assure you that this movie totally delivers. Everything you’ve heard of how unbelievably phenomenal, tragically heartbreaking, and beautifully crafted this movie is, holds up.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 11.09.45 AM
Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie begins with Bradley Cooper performing live as grizzled, alcoholic, country rocker, Jackson Maine, and as soon as he opened his mouth, my jaw dropped open. You guys, Bradley Cooper can SING. His voice has a raw, soulful, power that sounds as if he’s spent his whole life plucking guitar strings and performing at open-mic nights in Western bars. His mountain man voice is strangely endearing to listen to, and I whole-heartedly encourage him to use it when he auditions for Little John when Disney inevitably decides to make a gritty, live-action remake of Robin Hood (1973). Bradley Cooper takes this role, one that could easily have gone to a seasoned musician, and makes it his own. I always find myself being impressed by his knack for transforming into whatever character he portrays. It’s obvious he spent a lot of time learning about the world of music, and rehearsing so that every move he makes as Jackson feels authentic. Which, by the way, it totally does. Cooper’s musical performances, as well as Gaga’s, are made all the more impressive when you take into account that they’re all recorded live, something that Gaga herself insisted on.

Lady Gaga: Holy shit, you guys.

I’m a big Lady Gaga fan so when I sat down to write this review, I had to tell myself, “yes, she’s amazing, and brilliant, but you can’t spend 92 per cent of the review gushing abut how amazing and brilliant she is.” Plot twist, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

As soon as Lady Gaga appeared onscreen, a huge smile broke out on my face. She wasn’t even doing anything remarkable yet. When we’re introduced to her character, Ally, she’s just a waitress talking on the phone and yet, her undeniable star power is so great that she instantly drew me into the story. I took that feeling of amazement and copy and pasted it towards everything she does in this movie. Even when she’s just standing in a parking lot, singing a few lines of a song she’s working on, she’s mesmerizing to watch. It’s clear from her performance that having her first starring role be in a movie that asks her to play to her strengths as a singer-songwriter, made the job all the more enjoyable for Gaga. If you told me that Ally was being played by an unknown actress who had just nabbed her first leading role, I’d believe you. Gaga is unrecognizable to the point where it feels like we’re being introduced to her for the first time, and perhaps in a way we are: Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, film actress, Lady Gaga.

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Credit: Harper’s Bazaar/ Getty Images Kevin Mazur

This is such a perfect role for Gaga, tailor-made for her talents and range, that I almost never want to see her in anything else. Sacrilege, I know, but after witnessing such a perfect blend of actress and role, I feel like it’d be super cringe to watch her play one half of a buddy cop duo, or the overworked heroine in a romantic comedy who just can’t seem to find Mr. Right.

Ally’s, “a star is born moment,” the moment that the world sees her true talent, is a rush of emotion. It’s a scene that is breathtaking, intense, and a testament to how expressive and moving music can be. The song she and Jackson sing, “Shallow,” not only showcases Gaga’s killer pipes, but will have you biting your lip to hold back from belting out the song with her. Mark my words, YouTube is going to be flooded with thousands of covers of “Shallow” over the next few months, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the “Let It Go” phenomenon of 2014.

Speaking of, the music in this movie is beyond spectacular. Gaga gets to play with all the toys in the musical toy box, effortlessly shifting from country-rock, to synth-pop, to soaring rock ballads. I’d even buy a Bradley Cooper album of country covers and I’m not usually one for country. Although, I am partial to Dolly Parton, because, well, duh. By the way, I hope I’m not scaring anyone away by referring to the music as “country.” It’s not even close to that scary image you have in your head of country music, and I promise you that no one sings about trucks, cowboy boots, or America.

I could easily have seen this movie suffering from some studio executive saying, “oh, we’re doing A Star Is Born in 2018? We need to make this cool and hip for the kids!” Could you imagine? Ugh, then they would have insisted that some pop star like Shawn Mendes play the Jackson role, where he would help Ally, played by an inexperienced model, reach super stardom on Ugh, the worst. Thank God for Bradley Cooper and his insistence on doing a story that honours the artistry and craftsmanship of music and songwriting, as well as presents the pleasures and perils of show business.

As stunning as Gaga is as a first-time actress, Bradley Cooper is equally so as a first-time director. I realize it sounds far-fetched, but I really couldn’t think of a single thing wrong with the way that this movie was made. The pacing was masterful, wasting no time setting up the story or bringing the main characters together in an organic way, we were shown and not told about what the character’s motivations were and how they felt, and almost every scene was shot and framed so beautifully that any one would make a cool screensaver.

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Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

I can see both of the leads getting nominated for Academy Awards, for acting, as well as directing and songwriting, no doubt about it. But I feel like people aren’t talking enough about Sam Elliott and Dave Chapelle, who play Jackson Maine’s older brother Bobby and close friend Noodles, respectively. Sam Elliott will tear your heart in two as he stands by Jackson, offering support and dishing out harsh words and tough love when he needs to hear it. As for Dave Chappelle, he regrettably isn’t in the movie for very long but when he is…damn, there’s something about him, he just has this aura of calm and togetherness, that makes me want to sit down with him and have him fix my life. Pay close attention to the first scene he’s in. The subtlety of his performance is nothing short of wonderful. I strongly believe that Sam Elliott is going to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination, which he more than deserves, but I sincerely hope the Academy takes into consideration the grounded performance that Dave Chappelle brings to such a small, but important role.

Oh my God, please go see this movie, and please see it in theatres. It’s totally worth it! The cast and crew delivered true art in creating this masterpiece of a movie that is almost impossible not to  fall in love with, or at the very least, be utterly blown away by.

Stellar music, transcendent performances, heaps of charisma, flawless direction…There you go. A “million reasons” to see A Star Is Born.

What did you think of A Star Is Born? Do you think Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga deserve Oscars? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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