At the ninth American Film Festival, I treated A Star Is Born as a detox. It wasn’t focused on a problem entirely and the budget was definitely higher than in most of the productions at the festival. A breeze of freshness among films which put the heavy weight on your arms. It was this “normal” cinema at the independent film festival but still giving a feeling of importance.
Minor spoilers ahead
Every love story is a simple one. No matter how it ends, the main plot is the same. It is supposed to make you feel and it did. A Star Is Born is a cliche on so many different levels. I’ve read that story a dozen times before. Moreover! I used to read such stories when I was a teen. It’s what most of the fangirls dream about: the crush of a singer to see them sing in some hole in the suburbs. And then to become someone special out of the idol’s idea.
But it doesn’t end there. The film surprises to be even more of a cliche the further parts. Because there’s literally nothing out of standard. I’m not even talking about love story here because it couldn’t have been different. It’s kind of a 50 Shades of Grey kind of deal, where she loves him, he loves her and he gives her everything. Well, yes, sex included. Then this star which is born is an ordinary pop star with completely no personality in her music. And even with all the awards and stuff, she is still nothing but cliche.
To be honest, at the beginning I was hopeful. I thought – maybe it will be some soft rock/country deal, or maybe there will be a surprise that actually matters. That Gaga’s character would become someone different in the music industry, someone, that actually would show personality. But after a producer offered her a contract, everything was obvious. It was just this sugary music with more and more dancers and less and less clothing. Because what else a girl could do? There is nothing else in the music industry than be a damn shocker, be covered in glitter and show your body more than your damn voice.
This was the thing that upset me the most, I reckon. It is only then Bradley’s Jack disagreed with what had happened. Obviously, it turned into this huge fight which changed nothing. My theory is – his downfall was induced by his blame, that he’d tried to do something good in life and it’d turned out wrong. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably never forgive myself for turning my beloved into this painted doll.
The problem with the script was influencing the velocity through the film. Somewhere in the middle of it, someone decided to speed up from zero to a hundred in the minimum time. Because of that, we can see the first part of the relationship as a blooming cherry tree and the second one as an advert of Kalasznikow. In other words – the romance was slow and cute and when the career and the alcoholism entered the stage more, we could only see short flashes.
This can be only blamed on Bradley Cooper’s directing debut. It is a pleasant one but he led the film to be a perfect fit for the broad audience. And maybe this way to score some awards. La La Land proved that the simplest interventions can get the biggest wins. Too many complications make people too confused to appreciate the film. It seems like it was the case for a long while now. The Academy Awards are recently not for the power of the subject or technical skills but to the dreamers and the illusionists who can catch the people in their cage with a pretty story and plenty of emotions. The camera was easier for an average viewer. It was soothing after all these experimental camera moves at the American Film Festival.
Nonetheless, it was pretty neat for a newbie. Cooper made this small touches here and there such as detailed shots of faces or hands repeating throughout the film. What was most enjoyable was the concerts, since they weren’t CGI’ed or anything. For that alone, a huge applause is in order. In the case of his acting, I’m unable to resist. What makes him even more irresistible is his singing and I must say he nailed it.
In the case of Lady Gaga, it was the other way around. She has this incredible voice with more skills and background, but in the case of acting, she’s a complete beginner. Ally is not really hard to play, she’s a simple girl and I’m assuming there’s something in Gaga’s personality there, too. But even if it wasn’t the hardest character to play, she gave a good performance and she bought me. In the acting business, though, my winner was Sam Elliot, who should easily score some Oscar nomination. His manager/brother persona has a great influence in merely a few words.
The soundtrack was already praised everywhere so I don’t think it is worth repeating. It is really something. It literally makes you produce emotions. I shed a tear at the last song myself. Because this is what this film does to you: it makes you feel.
Summing up, I agree there can be a powerful message there and that a sacrifice is required for a star to shine, but it wasn’t what I saw. I saw a damage the showbusiness makes on anybody who enters. But what I took out of the cinema was not what I saw but what I felt. I believe it was the power of music and how it affects us. And this is why you should see that. There’s litereally no other reason. Listening to the sole soundtrack is nothing in comparison to the whole film.