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A Star is Born (2018)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 2/19/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/8/2019
You would hope that those who become famous for having one talent would be satisfied with that accomplishment. But, that’s often not the case. The drive to become a hyphenate is very strong with some people. What’s a hyphenate? It’s the title one gets when they add another talent to their resume, such as “writer-director” or “dancer-choreographer”. One that we often see is “singer-actor”. Once a person gets a taste of the spotlight by singing on stage, they decide to give acting a shot. Elvis Presley is a very famous example, as are Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw, and Common. The latest entry into this club is Lady Gaga, who takes her music video acting experience to A Star is Born. Will she earn her hyphen?
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is an aging roots-rock singer who is nursing an alcohol and drug addiction. Following a concert, he’s desperate for a drink and urges his driver to stop at a bar. The bar turns out to be a drag club and performing that night is an actual woman named Ally (Lady Gaga), who sings a song in French. Jackson is taken with this woman and being a rich, famous white man, goes backstage to meet her. The two spend the night talking about music. The following day, a car arrives to pick up Ally and she’s flown to Jackson’s concert, where he pulls her on stage to perform a duet. Soon, the two are inseparable, not only making music together, but falling in love. But, as Ally’s pop-music career begins to take off, Jackson dives deeper into his self-loathing and addiction. Can Ally’s love save him?
Unless you didn’t pick up on the snarky tone of the above synopsis, A Star is Born has a wacky story and one must suspend their disbelief from the outset. First, you must buy the incredibly far-fetched and complicated way in which Jackson and Ally meet. The whole point of this film is that a coincidental meeting leads to the aging star finding the young ingenue, but Cooper and fellow Screenwriter Eric Roth really went out of their way to create a complicated meet-cute. From there, you will be treated to a cliched and cumbersome story which rarely gels. As noted above, Ally veers off into pop music, which is nothing like the songs she performs with Jackson in the beginning. Jackson has a complex relationship with his brother (Sam Elliot) which is sad, but also feels very unnecessary and under-developed. Jackson’s place in the world is also vague. He’s clearly a well-known musician, but how well-known?
None of that nitpicking is important, because we’re here for the love story, right? Not so fast. Just as the overall story feels overly-complex, the romance comes across as hollow. It’s difficult to picture Jackson and Ally together and not just because of the age gap. They simply never click. Part of this is due to the lack of chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. Which leads us to the performances. This may be Cooper’s first time in the director’s chair, but he’s a veteran actor and he should have been able to spot the problems here. He’s decided to give Jackson a voice which is 120% mumbling and 90% growling, which results in an almost immediate grab for the remote to turn on the subtitles. (His conversations with Elliot are like something out of a foreign film.) He would have been better off doing his Rocket Raccoon voice. As for Lady Gaga, she’s supposed to be playing someone who has low-self esteem and doesn’t believe in herself. The problem is that at this point in her career, Gaga has clearly forgotten what those feelings are like, as her attempts to be humble do not come across as genuine. It’s simply impossible to believe her as someone who doesn’t think that they have what it takes. (And, for the record, I think that she looks better as Ally, than as Lady Gaga.)
The bottom-line is that A Star is Born is a contender for this year’s most surprising Best Picture nominee. From the laughable opening to the finale, which wants to be shocking and emotional, but simply falls flat, the movie doesn’t work. Even beyond the fact that this is the fourth iteration of A Star is Born, the story is cliched and there are few surprises here. The acting is bad and the characters are unlikable. I suppose that the music may appeal to some, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Cooper is a good actor and Gaga has a strong voice, but placing the two of them in this unnecessary remake was a bad idea. In the film, Jackson sings, “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” His words, not mine.
A Star is Born features some easily impressed concert audiences on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is noticeably good, as we can make out textures on objects. The depth also impresses, giving the concert scenes real scope. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the music sounds very good. From the opening number, it’s obvious that the music is going to be front-and-center, as it’s quite powerful and delivers a nice amount of bass. In the concert scenes, the crowd noise fills the front and rear channels, surrounding us with the applause. The surround effects are often detailed, highlighting individual sounds.
The lone extra on the A Star is Born 4K UHD is a feature which allows the viewer to jump directly to the music scenes (and, I guess, allowing them to by-pass the “story”). The remainder of the extras are found on the Blu-ray Disc included in this set. “The Road to Stardom: Making A Star is Born” (30 minutes) opens with a conversation between Cooper and Gaga in which they discuss the origins of the project and how she became involved. This leads to a talk about the creation of the film’s music, and includes a talk with some of the musicians involved in the project. Sam Elliot and Andrew “Dice” Clay eventually join the chat and we get to see a table reading. From there, we hear some of the other cast members and the focus shifts to the film’s production, especially the concert scenes. “Jam Sessions and Rarities” offers different takes of three songs. We get MUSIC VIDEOS for “Shallow”, “Always Remember Us This Way”, “Look What I Found”, and “I’ll Never Love Again”.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long