By BOB PALMER,
By what yardstick should we measure “A Star Is Born?” A movie by that name has been made three times before. Is the 2018 version with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper better than the 1937 original with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March? Will you enjoy Lady Gaga’s octave wavering more than Judy Garland’s bluesy style in the 1954 take? Perhaps you are still sold on Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson from 1976?
The answer is perhaps simpler than you think. Each version of this classic Hollywood/music industry tale has its own merit. The original is the original. You can’t beat Garland. Streisand in her prime was unsurpassed. What can best be said about the musicality of “Star” is the Gaga version is fresher. The music is more today. In the ranking of sex, drug and rock ‘n roll movies, “Star Is Born” comes in solidly in the middle of the top 10. Most will put “Doors,” “Ray,” “The Commitments,” and “Walk the Line” on top. If you are thinking, however, “Star” is just another anti-drug morality play, you have seriously missed the memo. This is a love story with a capital L. Gaga and Cooper are electric in great love scenes and mine the depths of their souls seeking meaning and union in a world crashing down around them.
Cooper has definitely cured his “Hangover” one, two and three juvenile delinquency. Cooper helped write and direct “Star” showing a range of talent one would not normally expect from him. His acting was solid, and his vocals were adequate. Cooper’s script, complete with Hemmingwayesque foreshadowing touches, and direction took an almost reality TV approach with little in the way of pauses between lines to let the audience catch up. The lines were delivered with an almost breathless stream of consciousness quality adding a huge serving of believability.
Sam Elliot as Cooper’s older brother was a great touch. Elliot brings depth to any role and this was no exception. Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron and Anthony Ramos also elevate the credits for this flick.
Cooper plays an established music (hard to say whether its rock or country) star, Jack, who on a post-gig drunk stumbles into a drag queen bar and discovers Ally (Lady Gaga), the only part of the entertainment who is actually a woman.
The two meet but, strangely, will take a reel or two before they find the bedroom door.
Jack uncovers Ally’s vocal and songwriting talents and drags her on stage during a performance. Ally’s career launches with the help of a supportive Jack, but his addiction to drugs and alcohol will create problems the couple will attempt to combat with their mutual love.
The female leads in previous versions of “A Star Is Born” are often nominated for an Academy Award. Streisand won. I would not be surprised if it happened again, because the gold statuette is the measure of this film’s worth.
“A Star Is Born” is rated R. The run time is two hours and 16 minutes. Show times are in an ad on this page or on the Jimplecute web site, www.Jimplecute1848.com
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