A Star Is Born ★★★½

"Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave - 12 notes and the octave repeat. It's the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer this world is how they see those 12 notes. That's it."

What marks this as a 'Star' for 2018 is the modest meta-textual commentary, as exemplified by the above quote from Sam Elliot's character. The first half of the film is definitely better than the second, but that might just built into the story at this point. I feel like a complete asshole for complaining that the whole thing is cliche and predictable, given that said story is over eight decades old, but it is what it is. It's exactly the film promised by the trailers, no more and no less, although it's executed *very* well. Both leads are quite good (especially Cooper) and they have terrific chemistry together.

Cooper's direction is top-notch, as is Jay Cassidy's editing. I especially liked the way the director almost slyly slips some breathtaking compositions into the film's superficially naturalistic, hand-held style. An astonishingly strong debut for a first-time filmmaker. He's been watching and learning all the best lessons from his directors over the years.

There's been some grumbling about the film's allegedly anti-pop message and how that clashes with Gaga's vehemently pro-pop musical worldview, but I just don't see it. The film mostly follows Jackson's viewpoint, but it never buys into his tiresome, resentment-fueled obsession with cornpone authenticity.

If you can watch Gaga's titular 'Star Is Born Moment' when she is first dragged onstage to perform "Shallow", and not get a little choked up... well, you probably don't have a fucking soul.