'A Star is Born' outshines its predecessors

Phil on Film

Now this is a bad romance.

You may have seen "A Star is Born," maybe even three times before. Yet until you've seen the 2018 version, you've never seen "A Star is Born."

This is the fourth edition of the movie, following the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions. Each remake has been more bombastic and considerably darker than the last, leaving tougher and tougher acts to follow for their successors.

But leave it to Cooper and Gaga to deliver a showstopper that renders the previous versions all but irrelevant.

Bolstered by two jaw-dropping performances by its leads and a remarkably assured storytelling hand by Cooper, the first-time director, this "A Star is Born" outshines those that came before, standing on its own as a timeless tale of tortured love, as well as the fleeting nature of fame, the siren song of substance abuse and the helplessness of coping with loved ones mired in depression.

In light of a rash of high-profile, drug-addicted celebrities taking their own lives, or nearly escaping overdose deaths, the movie sings a haunting song that is more relevant today than ever.

But even if the film were about sunshine and daffodils, it still would have thrived, based on the magnetism, chemistry and dumbfounding talents of Cooper and Gaga. Everyone knew Cooper could act and Gaga could sing, but it's shocking to see how well Cooper can croon and Gaga can carry her role. 

Both prove to be such formidable crossover talents that it's tough to imagine any other duo surpassing what they accomplish here.

Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a folk singer at the height of his fame who takes Lady Gaga's up-and-comer Ally under his wing. As her star rises, his begins to fade, and the jealousy and resentment from both sides begin to emerge, tearing apart their bond as they head in different directions.

Both Cooper's gristly ballads and Gaga's operatic crooning and pop anthems mix tell the story in song as much as narrative. Cooper and Gaga's breathless, convincing romance rings true, and manages to get you to root for them to succeed as a couple despite the fatal flaws that emerge in their union.

It's no accident that Cooper reserves the most powerful scenes for himself -- one of the perks that comes from taking the director's chair -- but Gaga is not one to be carried, proving to be Cooper's equal . This could be a launching pad to far greater things for Gaga in the realm of acting. While it's tough to imagine Cooper starting a singing career, you can tell he will become a force to be reckoned with as a cinematic storyteller. 

Cooper and Gaga's stars are reborn.

RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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