Sunday, February 17, 2019

Video review: "A Star Is Born"

The luster of “A Star Is Born” has faded somewhat since it opened in theaters, going from box office hit and surefire Oscar favorite to something of the ignored cousin in the awards season.

Everybody likes it, but not enough to actually win the gold.

Lady Gaga in particular has been blanked in most of the high-profile awards for her role as Ally, a plucky nobody who goes from dive bar crooner to pop star sensation in record time. I thought she was very good in the role, a real-life contender for “most famous person in the world” believably portraying someone who’s gobsmacked by her sudden fame.

But for me, Bradley Cooper quietly steals the show as Jackson Maine, the boozy country/rock singer who gives Ally a rocket ride to fame, only to see their relationship suffer when her rising star eclipses his fading one. There’s an unspoken ache to his performance that I found just riveting.

This is the fourth time this story has been told, with iterations in the 1930s, ‘50s and ‘70s prior to this one. (I’ve only seen the first.)

That lends the movie an ageless quality, yet it also felt very fresh and urgent to these eyes. What I took away from the experience is a more nuanced look at fame than we usually see in the movies. Regular folks hear about the substance abuse and mental health problems of celebrities and wished they could be so cursed with wealth and stature.

But Cooper, who directed and co-wrote the script with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, gives us an insider’s look at how normal life becomes warped by fame into an upside-down, inside-out travail that would crush most people.

With terrific songs (most written or co-written by Gaga), a pair of standout lead performances and a stellar supporting turn by Sam Elliott as Jackson’s older brother, “A Star Is Born” is a prime example that even though Hollywood constantly repeats itself, it can still provide indelible experiences along the way.

Video extras are decent, and decidedly music-heavy. This includes music videos of four songs -- “Shallow,” “Always Remember Us This Way,” “Look What I Found” and “I’ll Never Love Again” -- as well as jam sessions of three more: “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” “Midnight Special” and “Is That Alright.”

There’s also a making-of documentary, “The Road to Stardom.”



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