TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018: Take a time machine back to 2009 when you first saw “The Hangover” or 2005 when you were watching Rachel McAdams’ sleazy boyfriend “dry hump” Vince Vaughn up and down the field. Did you ever think you were watching one of the future’s most exciting and enthralling directors? That’s what we have here. Bradley Cooper, four-time Academy Award nominee (3 for acting, 1 for producing), has crafted, co-wrote, and stars, in a nearly perfect remake of one of cinema’s most beloved stories. “A Star is Born” is a remarkable and stunning achievement pairing together two of the year’s most breathtaking performances in Cooper and Grammy Award winner Lady Gaga. Its highs are SO high that it has undoubtedly made its mark on the film year, declaring itself one of the frontrunners to win the coveted Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards.
“A Star is Born,” tells the story of Jackson Maine (Cooper), a musician who helps a young singer Ally (Gaga) find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Bradley Cooper‘s work behind the camera is equally matched if not magnified but his work in front. In a profession that has shown us “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Sniper,” Cooper has scored his finest acting performance of his career. A turn that has a semblance of Nicolas Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas” and Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line,” Cooper constructs his own creation, echoing and respecting the role that has been crafted by Frederic March, James Mason, and Kris Kristofferson.
Lady Gaga, an artist who has made her mark in the music industry, blazes through the screen with savagery and poise. As Ally, she finds her insecurities, explores how they would affect her and those around her, and becoming a bonafide gifted actress, right before our eyes. It’s apparent that her high marks come in any number in which she sings, particularly “The Shallow” and “I’ll Never Love Again,” two numbers that Gaga co-wrote herself. In the case of the former, a tune in which she shares with co-star Cooper, its result is one of the single best musical moments caught on film this decade, perhaps this millennium. Undoubtedly to become the “City of Stars” of the year, encapsulating everything we love in the marriage of music and the movies.
Sam Elliott, a veteran actor who has been long ignored by the Academy despite colossal works in films like “Grandma” and “The Hero,” is now a prime candidate for his first Oscar nomination in Supporting Actor. As Bobby, Jack’s much older brother, we see the regret of a career that was never had, and the paternal instinct to care for his reckless younger brother. Elliott is one part of a great ensemble that includes strong works from Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, and Dave Chappelle.
The film is a magnificent force, especially in its first hour, lavishing the world of cinema with beautiful, tender moments. Though impeccable, the film does feel a tad too long and probably could have benefited from a 15-minute shave here and there. That doesn’t take away from Jay Cassidy‘s stellar editing which is still very robust. Matthew Libatique, the great cinematographer that has only muster one nomination in his career (“Black Swan” in 2010) despite a half-dozen worthy works, looks to score his second as he gets in as close as he can to both of the central figures, and just when you think he can’t get any closer, he does, capturing truth and intensity.
“A Star is Born” is undeniably exceptional, one of the year’s best films and something we should hope to see more of in the future, especially as Hollywood continues its obsession with remakes. Cooper seems to use the foundation of the previous three films and develops a new, fresh take on a frankly, overplayed story arc that we too much today. We welcome Bradley Cooper to the directing world and will look forward to his next venture.
“A Star is Born” is distributed by Warner Bros. and opens in theaters on Oct. 5.