A Star Is Born ★★★

If you loved this movie, I apologize in advance for my forthcoming negativity!! Definitely feel free to avert your eyes from this review (I’ll start with some positives though, so you can stick around for that 🙂)

My favorite aspect of A Star is Born by far was the nice cinematography which lent it a distinctly heightened, *cinematic* vibe. I also thought Lady Gaga rocked her role, showing immense talent as both an actress and musician. The way the ending was edited as it cuts to credits was superb and effective. I loved  their bold, all-out approach to the humiliating acceptance speech scene that made it excruciating to watch. Ally’s drag queen friends were rad and depicted in a (mostly, though not 100%) positive, respectful way that’s rare to see in mainstream media. And the movie does a lot in terms of addressing the problem of substance abuse as a disease, allowing Cooper’s hardened, masculine character to grapple with the pain and vulnerability of addiction & mental illness in a way that’s not typically seen. 

With those things said, I was surprised to come away feeling as though what I’d just watched was on the verge of being...bad? Even with the Academy’s dubious taste and questionable decision-making (*cough*), I guess my naive soul was expecting more from a Best Picture nominee. My impression is that the film acts like it’s deeper than it is and doesn’t earn its facade of meaningful substance. Its critique of fame is surface-level at best as it never fully engages with its themes in a meaningful way. Personally, I failed to be convinced of the realness of these characters beyond superficial “types” with predictable trajectories. I didn’t even like or enjoy the dynamic of the central romantic relationship, which felt in many ways unhealthy from the beginning (maybe that was purposeful and it was intended to be a bit toxic all along, but it also felt very romanticized. like “aww so sweet of him to obsess over her to the point of hiring a driver to stalk her around and insist she comes to his concert even after she repeatedly refused and explicitly told him no, and look, she secretly “wanted it” and it turned out amazing” 😍✨ and other problematic red flags like that). Even when delivered by great performers, the dialogue felt almost comically contrived and manipulative at points, like the writer was trying very hard to make me feel things but failing entirely to do so.

Apologies again for the negativity of this (belated) take—it does seem like everyone on the project cared about it with a passion, and a lot of people really love the film—but on my receiving end of the experience, everything was reading as ironically...shallow 😬

Anyway if you’re interested in Hollywood history, the excellent channel “Be Kind Rewind” has a video essay comparing every version of A Star is Born that’s pretty great and made me really want to see the Judy Garland version!