A Star is Boring



The real story of 2018’s “A Star is Born”  is how its stars, who play stars, are unable to do anything but imitate how someone would behave when they achieve stardom, rather than expose their own “lived” experience.

Bradley Cooper’s gives the portentous advice ” Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag,” even as he is directing a movie with nothing new to say.  It’s a timid note-for-note copy of it’s predecessors.  He has even artificialized his voice, it’s a gravelly octave lower. in order to better imitate a burned-out rock-star.

And he’s imitating only the good parts.  With the exception of a couple of pasted-on jarring bouts of bad behavior, Jackson Maine is the most courtly “self-destructive drunk” ever seen.  Have you ever known a real alcoholic?  They are ANGRY.  They are bloated.  They lie.  Not once and then tearfully apologize, they lie all the time.  They don’t black out in a hotel room and spring up the next morning to laugh and quip over room-service breakfast.  That’s not what a blackout hangover looks like.

Gaga however does show some realness, but not about her character.  It’s about the earnest of wanting to do a good job as an actor.  We see her caring about pulling out the right emotions.  And in a way that’s endearing and makes us want to care for her.   But it’s not what an ingenue propelled to stardom would feel.  Instead she would be subject to roiling welter of emotions: being caught up in her new power, feeling like an imposter, having a sense of vanquishing her naysayers, worrying over how long it would last, experiencing both appreciation and resentment for the fact that the launching of her stardom was due to her partner.   These are all missing, instead the script has her character put on the cloak of success with ease, with a few shouts back to her goombah muckety-muck adopted family of commercial-ready livery-cab drivers.

Unless we see these real, and often conflicting emotions, there is no way to care about the characters or to root for them as a couple.  Cooper and Gaga seemed to be saying their lines in a soap-opera-esque fraught way, with the occasional burst of emotion that seemed more to do with the novelty of movie-making than with how they relate to each other.    By the end one grows weary of Jackson Maine, there was no real dark side to him. So his efforts at redemption seemed superfluous.

Imagine if he had been a real bastard, and yet we still cared for him. Or if Gaga’s ego had blown up but she was able to cast it aside and return to humllity when the chips were down.   That really would have been “having something to say.”





  1. Too bad — I think Lady Gaga is a wonderful singer, and I liked how “real” she seemed in the trailers. It was like having an actual person dropped into the middle of a bunch of stars. But it doesn’t sound like the movie would be worth the time.

  2. This is a *great* review. (How I’m just seeing it now, I don’t know, but there we are.)

    Perfectly articulates everything I was afraid would be true about it. I’m sorry you had to suffer.