A review of Bradley Cooper‘s "A Star Is Born," by New Yorker critic Anthony Lane, all but repeats my take on Cooper's overpraised film. I've seen this situation many times before, where a film is all but overpraised during the festival circuit by beer-goggled critics and audiences just following the hype, but once the dust settles, it turns out the film was just okay.
In his review, Lane states that “ideally, Cooper’s film would end after the first hour,” or “after the first night that Jackson Maine (Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) spend together. They don’t have sex; they just hang out. She gets into a fight, and he buys frozen peas to soothe her swollen hand. He listens to her sing in a parking lot, then drops her off at home, where she lives with her father (Andrew Dice Clay).
My response: That first hour is pure magic and serves up a film that feels infectiously lovable. I love Gaga and Cooper's chemistry in these scenes, and Andrew Dice Clay damn near steals the show -- he and his Italian-American buddies have such a good-natured vibe in their scenes that, despite the obvious caricaturing, it works.
“All that’s good about the film is in these scenes, with their clash of the coarse and the delicate, and you can sense the scales beginning to tip.Everything hereafter feels hokey by comparison, not least the swiftness of the heroine’s ascent. Like her counterpart in What Price Hollywood?, Ally used to wait tables, but within a day or two she has flown on a private jet and made her début in concert, hauled into the spotlight by her adoring superstar beau and fêted on social media. Before long, she has a recording deal and three Grammy nominations, while Jackson’s contribution to the Grammys is a bit part in a Roy Orbison tribute. Worse, and more ignominious, is to come.
My response: Cooper manages to practically destroy the narrative drive of the initial hour. He clearly needs to learn a thing or two about how to structure a film properly. The film suddenly switches gears, a lot of character and story development is lost by the abrupt flash-forwarding in the story. All of a sudden, without much explanation, Gaga's Ally is a star and Cooper's Jackson, quite literally, pisses his pants at the Grammys.
“A Star Is Born is very much a product of our times. Jackson Maine’s problems date back to a wretched childhood, guaranteeing our pity and love, whereas Fredric March and James Mason gave the hero a nasty and dangerous edge. Cooper’s camera crowds the characters, getting in their faces, and the dialogue is determinedly foul with oaths: ‘If you don’t dig deep into your fucking soul, you won’t have legs.’
“In striving to make the whole thing rough and rooted, Cooper slakes our need for the apparently authentic, and yet the story he tells, with its sudden shock of fame, is little more than a fairy tale.”