The hype is real. The song that’s been stuck in your head since you saw the trailer is really that catchy. The southern boy rocker charm Bradley Cooper puts on is really that charismatic. Lady Gaga’s acting is really just as strong as her singing. The story at the center of this film is really that emotional. A Star is Born is really that damn good.
The opening third of this film is virtually flawless in its execution. We’re essentially getting the same old Hollywood romance schmaltz mixed with the obligatory dual commentary on the desire for — and the cost of — fame. But we’re given enough insight into Cooper’s mega-star Jackson Maine and Gaga’s aspiring musician Ally that it feels surprisingly deep. So by the time we get the chill-inducing performance of Shallow, the film is feeling anything but.
The attention to detail is what sets this apart from the hundreds of other run-of-the-mill films that share similar plots and themes. Plot points such as Maine’s relationship with Sam Elliott’s character seem to rise organically as opposed to being superficially blurted out loud. Threads of the story that are started earlier in the movie are subtly tied together later in ways that may not be immediately noticed. Instead, they burrow into your head waiting for you to discover them as you dwell on the movie — or listen to the soundtrack.
If there is any criticism to be leveled against the film it’s that the second act seems to bow under the weight of the flawless first act and the gut-punching third act. The pacing of the story stumbles a bit and the runtime extends until it regains its footing. This is partly unavoidable as the nature of the second act is that we are watching the characters go head-to-head with their challenges and each other. But these ups-and-downs are what make the emotions feel so genuine and the conclusion of the story stick with you when the theater lights come on.
A Star is Born is so polished that It’s hard to believe it is made by a first-time director and stars a newcomer to the big screen. The charisma exuded by both Cooper and Gaga is fused into a deep emotional core that Cooper expertly captures for the screen. It has a killer soundtrack that will leave audiences humming for weeks. And with award-winning performances from Cooper (in front of and behind the camera), Lady Gaga, and Sam Elliott, A Star is Born will use its polish to make plenty of statues and trophies shine this award season.