Opening Weekend Review: A Star is Born is a Cinematic Masterpiece

Images courtesy of IMDB A Star is Born

Look, this is not going to be the first thing you’ve seen about A Star is Born. This may or may not be the first thing you read about A Star is Born. This is not the last thing you will read about it either.

The trailer dropped in June of this year, and if you’re anything like me, you loved all 2 minutes and 24 seconds of it. The screenplay was done up by a team including Bradley Cooper and Eric Roth (whose resume includes Forrest Gump, Munich, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and enlisted the talents of Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot, and Dave Chapelle, to name a few.

It opened just 2 days ago, and we ALREADY have a piece up on it! Why? Because two members of our team couldn’t wait to see it. In turn, they couldn’t wait to write about it either. I’ll leave the rest to them, so enjoy!

Tyler: So, I was hoping we could talk about the music first. I would argue that the music in this film is among the most important characters of the film. That is, it has a function far beyond creating an atmosphere or a backdrop. What do you think?

Tristan: The music makes the film. At the same time, the music can stand on its own as a complete and impressive album. Mark my words, the album is gonna climb the charts and be streamed out the wazoo. I haven’t stopped listening to it all morning. In the movie though, it was much a character in driving the plot, expressing emotion, and crafting character arcs. That may be just me though, how did you like the music?

Tyler: I love the soundtrack. And I agree; it wouldn’t be the same movie without it. The music reflected so much of what was going on beneath the surface of the characters and their relationships to each other. An enormous amount of talent went into making and performing these songs. I also have to say that the acting performances themselves while the songs were being performed lent to how we experience the music. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga both floored me with their simultaneous acting and singing skills.

It’s interesting trying to predict where this movie will fall in the upcoming awards season. I have no doubt that this film will win best song. It’s more of a question of which song from the film will win.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born
Best Song for sure, and I’d add best on-screen couple. This is a pair I’d root for off-screen too tbh. ‘Ship it. ‘Ship it now.

Tristan: There’s too many good ones to pick from. Again, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hooked on the music. The music lover in me had to learn all about the process too, which is where my deeper admiration and love for the movie and music have grown. Bradley Cooper learned to play guitar for this movie, and I picked that up early on in the movie.

One of my biggest movie pet peeves is having actors play songs, yet the camera makes sure to never catch their face and the hands on the instrument in the same shot. Example? Back to The Future when Marty plays “Johnny B. Goode.” Love Chuck Berry, love Michael J. Fox, but I do wish someone would have sat down and taught Marty McFly how to play that one song. In watching A Star is Born, they make sure to clearly show that Bradley Cooper is playing the guitar! He talked about it on Fallon too, check it out below.

And he didn’t just play guitar, he sang too! This article had some great quotes and info which pointed out the fact that Lady Gaga made Bradley Cooper agree to sing and play live to do the movie right. And right it was. So right.

Tyler: I agree one hundred percent. And can we talk about Lady Gaga’s acting chops that seemingly came out of nowhere? I knew she was talented, but holy cow! Her portrayal of Ally, a talented but somewhat naive pop star struggling to stay grounded, had me moved to tears more than once.

Tristan: That was the surprise of the movie! And retrospectively…it almost shouldn’t have been. Like, we know she has had a presence since she first hit the scene. You can’t wear a meat dress to an awards ceremony without a little confidence and pizzaz. But the heart and reality she brought to the role blew me away too!

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born
From the meat dress to playing musical damsel Ally, this is a glow-up we’re all here for.

Leaving the theater I wondered about all the similarities between Ally and Lady Gaga. It almost felt like Gaga channeled all her real experiences into this character and showed us something closer to a real life story than a scripted role. And I second that motion, this movie brought the waterworks.

Tyler: Yes. I believed all of those little moments and choices Lady Gaga made as Ally. You could definitely tell she empathized with her character on a deep level. And her chemistry with Bradley Cooper’s character is undeniable. This film is, at its heart, a love story. Personally, I dread seeing romance in film anymore. Whenever I plan on seeing a love story in the theaters I try to prepare myself for it by anticipating all the tropes of cinematic romance. But in this film, I at no point felt like they took any shortcuts or cheapened that aspect of the story by making it overly sentimental. The love story felt true and believable.

Tristan: I’m so glad you said it first. This wasn’t a love story fraught with the usual suspects: the cheesy parent figures who have something negative to say, the friends trying to warn our hero of the impending dangers of courting the other half, and who can forget the terribly painful monologues meant to create angst? Instead, it was a realistic love story with real emotion. Jackson (Cooper’s character) says some really mean things while drunk, and comes to his senses once sober and gives a real apology. And guess what? Ally doesn’t brush it off like it was just lines in a script! She says, “You really hurt me.” The seats around me in the theater had a quiet roar of admiration. You go girl! That was a real conflict and resolution. They worked through their own problems. They had lots of problems too! They weren’t reaching out to side characters to fix their relationship issues, referred to as triangulation (shout out to my sister @lexi_torg for pointing out that term).

A Star is Born is such a nice change of pace after the tsunami of rom coms and romance films that plagued the 2000s with their silly antics and fantasy writing. I think that’s one reason everyone needs to get to the theaters and see it: It’s a real love story.

Gaga and Cooper in A Star is Born.
We’re not saying a guitar has to be present to make it a great love story, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Tyler: It really is. And I would also say this film sets a new standard for musicals. Every major performance in this film was on point and brimming with heartfelt emotion. Combine that with a soundtrack as beautiful and as well-incorporated into the story as this one, and you have a cinematic masterpiece. And I’d hate to speak in hyperbole like that, but this film truly is a masterpiece. All the elements from the camera work and the editing, to the directing and acting came together perfectly.

Tristan: Couldn’t agree more. The production value was that of any summer blockbuster, which is fresh for a musical. I’m a huge fan of John Carney and his musical movies, but they’ve always had slim budgets and limited releases. His most well-known film Once became a stage production after the movie release. I loved Begin Again and Sing Street, but they suffered from a lack of funding and exposure. A Star is Born really does bring all the elements to the table, and the result is like you said, a cinematic masterpiece. How does it stack up on your top movies of 2018?

Tyler: Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve seen a better movie this year. I predict A Star is Born as a major contender for nearly a dozen Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. And what makes that fact all the more amazing is how this is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s first major role in a movie. The fact that it came together so seamlessly is crazy to me. A Star is Born is tied with Black Panther as my favorite movie of the year.

Tristan: I think it will definitely snag tons of nominations, and I expect some great wins. You hit the nail on the head. This is an amazing movie and the whole deal, and it is Cooper’s and Gaga’s first outing in each of their new roles! It speaks to the mastery of their craft and abilities both on and off screen.

Looking over the movies I saw this year, this sits at or close to the top. There were movies like Sorry to Bother You, BlacKkKlansman, and A Quiet Place, all which were powerful in their own right, but I think A Star is Born just took the cake.

So to everyone, go see it!

When the credits roll, you’re gonna want to watch it again. Mark my words.

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