chavel’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Don't wanna feel another touch / Don't wanna start another fire / Don't wanna know another kiss / No other name falling off my lips / Don't wanna give my heart away to another stranger" — Ally's song "I'll Never Love Again"
As I'm getting older I see my own life getting harder. I think I am living modestly and then I get my credit card statements and I can't believe I blew money on this and that. Here's another loose thread from my incontinent brain: For awhile I would lose enjoyment in certain things like talking to strangers for the hell of it or — gasp — losing faith in movies.
Bradley Cooper inebriated in A Star is Born is probably how I best saw myself when I enjoyed being blitzed. I recall a time on myself when I was right out of college where on day to the next drunk was enough to get the words rolling out of my mouth. All these interesting impromptu conversations would happen. I could analyze movies better after a few drinks except for the times I was so out of it I was gibberish (I once insanely pontificated to some hearing me out that the leads in "Far From Heaven" were these Mr. & Mrs. Magnatech corporate shills trapped in an era where they put on masks or some bullshit that took me way off topic). There's that perfect drunk moment though, when and if life is ecstatic around the perimeter, when you can get giggly or smiley, or as euphoric, as Cooper is as drunk Jackson Maine.
Jackson is immediately enraptured by Lady Gaga's waitress Ally during a lounge act at this drag club by twilight. Lady Gaga sings the French song “La Vie En Rose” as if it’s the sexiest song ever written; it's probably not the sexiest song but the right songstress can always make anything sexy. Jackson is going to take her small time amateur and lift her up among the stars. He thinks he knows what love is, but as time goes on, we see that his view on love is skewed.
What Jackson is to himself, in the early scenes, is God of his own Universe. He is a bad boy, but one of those excusable bad boys, you see, because he has a mystique, a sense of profundity of his music, the star quality of one who is always putting on a performance. He is the magnet to the world of music and no one else could ever have his pull.
He does what a Prince Charming does and orchestrates a fast, exciting relationship with Ally and likely thinks at the beginning there will never be any down points he would cause.
Ally in the bathtub flubs a moment and says all she wants is her boyfriend to love her. That's a mistake, because they are married now. "That hurts," Jackson says. "You call me your fucking boyfriend?" Her retort, "You're my boyfriend if you don't treat me like your wife... it means clean your shit up." He calls her ugly. It's a moment he thinks he is justified in saying in his functional drinking state. He cannot take it back, but those are the words that begin to take their relationship down a slippery slope.
A Star is Born, directed by Cooper with a spontaneous vérité elan, is very much about how a music god cannot stand the fact his woman upstages him, and in the natural air of things, is no longer the center of the universe.
There's probably still some under-investigated truth that most men cannot be with a woman who is smarter, more accomplished, or more magnetic than they are. The male ego is strong... than it is not, it is fragile and easily shattered.
It is furthermore disturbing to the self of Jackson that Ally is autonomous, and can exist easily and accomplish on her own self-drive and does not need Jackson. Among my hardest challenges with this review is coming up with the words on how galvanizing Lady Gaga is in her debut role (OK, I said it in a word, galvanizing). Most music star to movie star transitions are buoyed by cute gimmicks or an over-reaching "austere" and self-conscious reach into the soul. Lady Gaga plays a character with doubts, but embraces her talents when its proven she's accepted on the big stage, and pours all her talent and personality into every breath she takes. She's a natural born entertainer, she's an unrehearsed natural born straight-shooter. While the relationship is contentious, her final song "I'll Never Love Again" is nevertheless one from the heart.
I watch A Star is Born and I turn to myself first: While I have good things in my life and enough comforts to keep me aloft, it's rather humble. I look around and notice broken marriages around my life that happened to people turned in by circumstantial stressors. Then I'm here looking at Jackson and Ally who have endless wealth and means, and they can't figure out a way to keep their solid foundation (Walking in on your wife's bath time and calling her "ugly" doesn't help). At best, these two are often creating or talking about creating (that's good!), and in off-time partying and over-drinking, before getting lost in their excessive dramas (bad!). Wetting his pants on stage will be the death knell of their embarrassments.
Cooper's film is about stardom on Earth now, how easily it all looks when things temporarily fall into place. And about how it should be easy with blessed musical purpose and those added luxuries surrounding everything — yet the bolt of truth is such things can be easily jettisoned when the good stuff is taken for granted.
The movie begins brash and colorful with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga appearing as if they are in a traditional Hollywood showcase. But they swing for the fences here, they both soar, quite spectacularly in a drama that aims to resonate many higher truths.
This was the second greatest film I saw in 2018.