A Star Is Born ★★★

One important thing missing from this film is a more specific public perception for both of our artists, which is always more debated and nuanced than the film allows to inflect the drama of its fame bubble in an attempt to streamline it. It would help, though, since Ally's arc involves a ricochet from Respectable, Adele-ian, singer-songwriter vulnerability all the way to thudding think-with-your-dickhead sex pop, though it seems that these modes coexist in her canon, just like Gaga's own. The only perceptions of this duality we get are the seemingly indifferent Grammies and Jackson, who sees it as a betrayal of the Gift of Fame he gave to her. Ally herself seems willing to be pushed into any mold, her only pushback relating to Jackson, as if he himself, insultingly, is the avatar of her True Creativity. In the sole scene where they fight over this, Ally defends her sell out song, but the film commits to neither the ultimate draining of her soul, nor creative redemption. Perhaps there is supposed to be the suggestion of something cyclical in that, as it was for Jackson, her life and problems are that of a pop star now, but he never faces any problems of creative autonomy in the film. There's certainly a gendered element to this dynamic but Cooper seems to disregard it in favor of Jackson's tragedy. It's difficult to tell if the film is simply less focused on maintaining the abstracts of its ideas and opting instead to allow their details to accumulate at a protracted pace, or if the disorganization of its ideas is simply unsortable for the haphazard assignment of mythological specifics to dramatic beats. Scenes that should be multivalent seem to disregard especially the underpinnings of music, culture, and social politics in favor of character drama made vaguer by a lack of attention to the character's understanding of their place in that landscape beyond "popular", "respected", or, unambiguously, not.

The film basically only wants to have to care about the relationship between its leads. I suppose it is rather beautiful if you limit your focus to this one element, but their characters are defined so much by the context Cooper fumbles with that it seems unfair to ask the audience to view them simply as People. Focusing on the center of your story so much that the margins don't matter is a viable technique, but the rhythm here is so shambling it's impossible for the mind not to wander to ponder what's going on there. Also this is a musical, the music needs to mean something! If this was a film about pop stars with no music in it, I probably would be focused solely on the characters and be able to ignore their milieu. As it stands this is attuned sharply to emotion but somehow not to anything that influences it other than other concrete, immediate people. Reminds me of Destin Cretton or Derek Cianfrance, though perhaps with a sturdier, more interpersonal sense of character.

Also Bradley Cooper as an actor is unappealing as a rule and here he is even duller than usual, grizzling his saving grace youthful spark down into Dadness.