L&D haven’t been this amped for a movie release since the disappointing Sully, so it was with a wary eye that we cruised past the extended line at the Taco Bell drive through to see Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga do their thing in the new A Star is Born incarnation.
Surprisingly, it was not a festival crowd, with the theater virtually empty. Perhaps the special Wednesday showing soaked up some of the advance crowd? At any rate, to the extent that opening night is the pulse of the wider movie audience, this one does not seem to be destined for blockbuster status.
The movie has some really great parts to it — Cooper and Lady Gaga are really spectacular in the lead roles, some of the music is pretty good (some isn’t), and Sam Elliot continues to have a really low voice. We also get Andrew Dice Clay as a would-be crooner degenerate gambler (and there are no quotation marks around “Dice” in the credits) and Dave Chappelle appearing as a Friend-of-Bradley. Talk about star power.
Another big plus is that the film takes the time to let the characters and story develop something beyond a Hollywood romance, with some scenes daring to linger on well past the usual Hollywood time allotment — I was almost surprised, for instance, that Cooper didn’t pull out his frequent shopper card when he was purchasing frozen peas at the Super A. I also felt that it is one of the best meditations on alcoholism, for one, and wealth and power dynamics, for two, that I can remember in a mainstream film. Indeed, the alcoholism is portrayed as if Cooper knows from whence he speaks, and parts of the film are so uncomfortable that they are virtually unwatchable.
On the other hand, I really didn’t buy the plot after the turn. That is, I found her rise far more convincing and emotionally satisfying than the fall, which made for kind of a weird ride for me. When Lady Gaga hits the stage for the first time, you’d have to be made of stone not to shed some tears when she becomes overwrought and covers her face with her hands. But the latter parts didn’t ring as true for me, and I was actually getting kind of irritated by the end. In some sense the story just didn’t piece together as well as I would have liked. And as we reached the three-hour mark (or maybe it just seemed like it), some of it seemed rushed, slapped together, incongruent, perhaps making up for the time lost with the more extended meditations earlier in the movie. In my mind, the last hour knocked it down from great to good status.
L correctly points out that if you like Bradly Cooper or Lady Gaga, you will love this movie. Possibly true. The guitar and bass line of “Black Eyes” is still rumbling through me 12 hours later. There is certainly plenty to like. But, you will have to wait for L to get here to hand out the awards for “Best New Director” and “Best Movie” for this one.
As I finish this up, one thing that I realize that I overlooked is the movie’s thesis about what it means to be a superstar in the modern world. The Cooper character always maintained that what differentiated him was that he was true to himself, making his life an open book — that’s why he didn’t mind when the cashier brazenly snapped his picture; she knows exactly what he’s all about because he laid it all out there for her and everyone else. Cooper’s thesis seems almost ridiculous amidst orchestral-accompaniment in Lady Gaga’s closing tune. Did they write that with the violin in mind? Maybe that’s what all that late splicing was about? That was certainly not what she was all about before she met him.
The verdict: L&D were both more impressed than not. You will probably be thinking about this one long after the curtain closes. So give it a chance. You’ll probably love it.