Plot: After a live performance and in desperate need of some alcohol, rock star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) winds up a drag club, simply because it was the closest bar and his addiction called. Once inside, he gets his drink, but he also meets some of the club’s regulars and performers, then watches a stunning performance by Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress with immense talent. Jackson is drawn to her as soon as he sees her, to the point he waits on her to get dressed and insists on taking her out, though she seems unable to accept his interest. The two strike up a fast bond and Maine is dazzled by her voice, as both a singer and a writer. He invites her on stage during one of his shows and she brings the house down, leading to a viral video and more attention than she ever could have dreamed of. But as she copes with newfound fame and Jackson tries to deal with his own personal demons, can the two find a path to happiness or will this prove to be yet another tragic love story?
Entertainment Value: This is one of those stories Hollywood just can’t resist, so we have this fourth incarnation of A Star is Born, this time directed by Bradley Cooper, who also stars alongside Lady Gaga. The narrative might be a familiar one, but it once again leads to cinematic excellence and this version is easily one of 2018’s best movies, a polished and effective drama on all fronts. I do think it veers into melodrama, but that is almost a must for this kind of charged drama, while my other issues is that the peaks and valleys could have hit harder. The couple endures some wild highs and rocky lows, but the movie keeps things out of the darker elements in most scenes, so we lose the huge swings the material seems to want. Even so, A Star is Born hits some strong emotional beats and the polish is beyond compare, this is Hollywood on Hollywood executed to an insanely high shine. The pace is on point and the character development is quite good, so we feel the connection and that is thanks in large part to the superb chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga. The visuals are refined and immersive, especially the live performances and of course, the music is fantastic. This is pure Hollywood done right, so anyone who appreciates well crafted dramas should find a lot to like here, even if you don’t normally get invested in super mainstream cinema.
A movie like this lives and dies by the chemistry between its leads, as that bond is what drives the movie and provides the emotional beats, so that relationship has to be on the mark and then some. In this case, Bradley Cooper’s insistence on casting Lady Gaga was a real coup, as the two have impressive chemistry and work quite well together, with a natural banter and presence. If the relationship feels forced in this kind of movie, it tanks the entire experience, but this feels like a natural bond, despite the rushed, intense connection that unfolds. Cooper is fantastic as Jackson and turns in some of his best work, even if his voice is so forced and unnatural, likely to be remembered as one of the movie’s drawbacks. At least it is mentioned in the narrative, however, so it does make some sense. Lady Gaga shines here as well, pulling off the common girl to superstar run with ease, as you’d expect. I knew she would be radiant in the music performances, but I didn’t think she’d be this effective in the dramatic elements. The cast also includes Sam Elliott, Dave Chapelle, and Andrew Dice Clay.
The Disc: A Star is Born receives the 4k treatment from Warner Brothers and looks excellent, as polished and refined as you’d expect. The image is pristine and razor sharp, with even the finest of details showing up crystal clear, giving us a deep, dynamic visual presence. The colors appear natural and contrast is stark, so when combined with the remarkable detail and depth, this proves to be a superb visual treatment that does the movie justice. The extras include songs & performances not shown in the movie itself, a promotional featurette, and some music videos.