Critics Are Losing It for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in 'A Star Is Born'
A Star Is Born, one of the most anticipated movies of the year, made its debut at the Venice Film Festival today. Marking Bradley Cooper's directorial debut and Lady Gaga's first meaty film role, the movie is the third remake of the 1937 film of the same name (and the third musical retelling, after the 1954 Judy Garland version and the 1976 Barbra Streisand version). A Star Is Born is a classic Hollywood love story about a creative couple—a hardened, self-destructive older man and a young ingenue who ultimately eclipses her mentor's fame and talent—which is why it keeps getting made over and over again. But how do critics feel about this latest version?
I'll admit that I'm unreasonably excited for the movie ever since the very good trailer hit the Internet in June, and I have had pieces of "Shallow"—which I've been calling AAAAAH AWWWW HAAAA AWWWW AAAHHH!!! (Love Theme From 'A Star Is Born')"—in my head for weeks. The Internet starting buzzing with anticipation when The Talkhouse accidentally published its glowing review a few days early; writer Jim Hemphill called it an instant classic and "a film with the breadth of an epic ensemble piece and the intimacy and undiluted emotional impact of a character study by Bergman or Cassavetes." (Which... sounds like insane praise to me.)
Now that it's made its official premiere and the review embargo has lifted, other critics are weighing in—and mostly praising the film.
For Variety, Owen Gleiberman calls it "a transcendent Hollywood movie" and "a sophisticated retro ’70s drama built around the uncanny flow of feeling that develops between the movie’s two stars." He also praises first-time director Cooper's talents in front of and behind the camera:
Cooper directed the movie himself, working from a script he co-wrote with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, and to say that he does a good job would be to understate his accomplishment. As a filmmaker, gets right onto the high wire, staging scenes that take their time and play out with a shaggy intimacy that’s shorn of the usual “beats.” The new Star Is Born is a total emotional knockout, but it’s also a movie that gets you to believe, at every step, in the complicated rapture of the story it’s telling.
The Wrap's Alonso Duralde praises the film's soundtrack, which features songs co-written by Cooper and Lady Gaga and will no doubt be in Oscar contention next year. "I rate Garland’s performance of 'The Man That Got Away' as one of the all-time great musical performances on celluloid, so I mean it as high praise when I say that while none of the numbers in this version surpasses that moment, some of them come shockingly close," he writes.
And while many reviews point out the strong supporting cast—which includes Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, and Sam Elliott—nearly every review makes one thing clear: It's Gaga's movie.
So why watch A Star Is Born in 2018, when Cooper’s directorial debut is premiering in Venice as part of a world tour that’s clearly meant to crescendo on a certain stage in Hollywood next year? The answer, it turns out, is Gaga. Already a Golden Globe winner for her work on American Horror Story, the pop star is resplendent as a diamond-in-the-rough singer whose booming voice and subtle expressions would make her predecessors proud.
Time's Stephanie Zacharek naturally compares Gaga to her predecessors:
If you’re looking for comparisons to Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland or Barbara Streisand, the other Star Is Born stars ... Gaga isn’t much like any of them: She’s more like Liza Minnelli, who channeled some of her mother’s fragility but tempered it with pluckiness. When Gaga’s Ally sings, she’s less a creature from over the rainbow than a sprite from another world who has quickly learned the ropes of our own fire and earth.
And EW's Leah Greenblatt highlights Gaga's stripped-down look, which makes the glam pop star believable as a struggling singer-songwriter:
Gaga’s serious-actress transformation for her first major film role will undoubtedly lead the conversation, and she deserves praise for her restrained, human-scale performance as a singer whose real-girl vulnerability feels miles away from the glittery meat-dress delirium of her own stage persona.
While the mostly positive reviews offer some predictable critiques—the film's running time is too long at 135 minutes, and the regurgitated plot is fairly predictable—the high praise for Cooper's direction, Gaga's performance, and the pair's on-screen chemistry is pretty ecstatic. As we enter Oscar season, A Star Is Born is already leading the pack and earning its place among its previous versions.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.