Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Review: 'A Star Is Born' is frustrating, emotional

Going into "A Star Is Born" without seeing the first three versions of the film, all I knew was I was probably going to cry and I was about to hear some great music. Both ended up being true, however there was so much more in between that I didn't expect.

The film opens with Bradley Cooper's character, Jackson, performing for a huge crowd of people. It's clear that he's a superstar celebrity. The opening guitar notes are exhilarating, and when he began to sing it was surprising to me. The thoughts that ran through my head were along the lines of, "Is this actually good?" and "Wow, this sounds like an artist I would actually listen to." 

It was just so crazy to me that this was the same guy who voices Rocket the raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. His singing voice just gave a true soulful, rustic bourbon-rock energy that draws you in. You can clearly see why his character is a huge celebrity at the beginning of the film. 

On and off the stage Cooper played a star role in the dramatic rom-com. Cooper co-wrote the film, directed it, co-wrote and performed the songs and took the leading role. But that's not to leave out his co-star. Lady Gaga portrayed Ally and showed that she's capable of much more than just great vocals. Gaga co-wrote the soundtrack, performed all of her songs and proved to be an incredible actress.

After Jackson's big show at the start of the film, we begin to see who he really is. He cowers under his hat, hiding from fans but is he unhappy with the fans or unhappy with himself? He gets in his limo and reaches for the liquor. But when there's not enough he requests to go to whatever bar is open, which just so happens to be a drag bar that a girl named Ally uses as an outlet to share her voice. 

Jackson stays for a drink and sees Ally perform "La Vie En Rose," and when their eyes meet, it's over. The pair has an enchanting night out together and somehow end up in a parking lot where Ally gives Jackson a taste of her original songs. Later that night, he drops her off at home. 

If the film ended right here, it would have been a feel-good, rom-com musical and that's all. However all the drama and frustration follows soon after. When Jackson and Ally get on the road together and fall in love, we see Jackson's true-self: his struggle with alcoholism, drug addiction and self-hate. 

We also see he suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus, where he hears a sharp ringing and buzzing in his ear, but there's no external noise. I just wanted him to be this great loving guy I saw at the beginning of the film, and each relapse back to drinking, taking pills or acting out in anger showed that Jackson was dealing with the disease of alcoholism on top of a deep self-loathing.

However, as the film progresses, Ally stays with him and supports him through it all. Through the rehab, the fights and the repeated passing out. Even as she makes her solo pop career, she stays true to Jackson. 

It would be wrong to go on without discussing the soundtrack to the film. Jackson's opening song is "Black Eyes," and shows off his alt-country/rock roots. The song that I left with stuck in my head was "Shallow." It's the Jackson and Ally performed for her first time on a real stage. The track has since reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

The alt-country/rock tunes were enticing, but we shouldn't leave out Ally's iconic pop persona created in the film. Her songs "Why Did You Do That?" and "Hair Body Face" are irresistibly catchy and genuinely good songs.

Following along with Ally and Jack's careers and relationship, viewers are taken on an emotional roller coaster of love, despair, success and hopelessness.


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