Despite stunning soundtrack, ‘A Star is Born’ hits a wrong note

Kira Sterling and Sophia Krugler

Aspiring singer Ally (Lady Gaga) takes the stage with Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) at their first concert together in front of thousands. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Slow, uncomfortable and confusing, Oscar-nominated musical “A Star is Born,” directed by Bradley Cooper, does not live up to expectations.

The movie follows the lives and careers of two musicians, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a seasoned country musician, and Ally (Lady Gaga), an aspiring singer. As they fall in love, Ally’s rise to fame mirrors Jackson’s fall.

The film was nominated for the 91st Academy Awards in seven categories, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Picture. It has received gushing reviews for powerful and authentic performances by both Lady Gaga and Cooper.

With all of the buzz surrounding “A Star is Born,” we were excited to see it for ourselves, but quickly discovered that the genuine appeal critics raved about made us extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps a more patient audience would have enjoyed the film more; however, we were put off by the lack of action and agonizingly slow development.

The movie opens with Jackson popping a few pills and drinking from a flask before going onstage to perform in front of a live audience. His inappropriately inebriated state seemed well-timed at first, but unfortunately this state lasts throughout the movie as Jack makes mistake after mistake.

And although the film portrays Jack’s relationship with substance abuse seriously and realistically, it is hard to appreciate. The problem here is not with how Jack is portrayed as an alcoholic and an addict, but rather that this one struggle takes over the entire movie, making even happy moments difficult to enjoy.

The directors’ attempts at making the movie realistic seem forced. The first conversation between Ally and Jack is oddly timed and awkward. Moments between Gaga and Cooper that are meant to be quirky and touching are hard to take seriously.

The audience also has little-to-no sense of time during the film, which contributes to confusion. The beginning scenes obviously occur within a day or two, but after that, the audience has no cues as to how long it has been since Ally and Jack met. This makes critical plot points seem sudden, and it is hard to understand the evolution of the characters and their relationship. 

The movie’s most redeeming quality is its original soundtrack. Evocative chart-topping pieces like “Shallow” were the product of a team of talented songwriters, including Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, and Andrew Wyatt. Others, like the poignant “Always Remember Us This Way,” have the power to connect disjointed scenes and almost make up for the awkward dialogue.

The film touches on important topics such as substance abuse, mental health, the industry’s view of women, and placing appearances above talent, but does not dive deeply into any of the above. While all of these issues are important to address, the story falls short of expectations. 

“A Star is Born”

2 hours 14 minutes

Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/ nudity, and substance abuse

Directed by Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, and Sam Elliot