Remember when movies used to be a tight, compact 90 minutes or less? There was a moment during this one — this has happened more than a few times lately — where I paused the movie and figured there could only be twenty minutes left. Nope. There were still 51 intolerable minutes of bonecrunching, screaming into the microphone pain, drunk fighting in the tub ennui left to go.
You know how you can tell this movie is a bloated mess? Even the trailer is more than three minutes long.
The first time A Star Is Born was made was way back in 1937, when Janet Gaynor played a young actress and Fredric March the star who introduced her to the industry. It was remade in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, then most famously in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, perhaps less famously in 2013 as Aashiqui 2 with Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor and now, we have Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
Let’s get the nice parts out of the way: Lady Gaga is amazingly talented as a singer and is a pretty decent actress, too. I’m all for anything she wants to do with her career, as she’s been really solid in just about everything I’ve seen her try her hand at. But man, this movie…I was about an hour into it and looked over at my wife, who was overly enthused about watching it due to how attractive she finds Bradley Cooper. Throw in a beard and a cowboy look and I had been told numerous times just how attractive Mr. Cooper was to the point of near absurdity. Surely she would be enjoying this film. Nope. She shot me a look and then said, “There’s no way you can be enjoying this horrible movie.”
Jackson “Jack” Maine (Cooper, who also directed and co-wrote this film) is a country music star battling addictions and tinnitus who we first meet on stage. He’s in California and just looking for a bar when he ends up at a drag bar that of course features a real woman singing as the lead performer, which is how I assume all these things work out. Ally (Gaga) and he fall quickly in love, despite the fact that she punches a guy in a cop bar for reasons that are never really disclosed. Pretty much everyone’s behavior in this movie is like the bars in my hometown around 1:55 AM. If they can’t get some action, they’re gonna punch you right in the puss.
Jack invites Ally to his next show, where she plays hard to get for all of seven seconds. He brings her on stage with him, then passes out right when they’re about to make love. She’s upset, because after all, she took the special time to go into the bathroom and dry her lady business and underarms down with a hotel towel for this.
Somewhere in all of this, they visit the ranch where Jack and Bobby — his older half-brother tour manager played by Sam Elliot, who really deserves better — grew up. Turns out that Bobby sold the land, so the brothers get in a fist fight. Then, Ally meets Rez, a combination music producer and manager who takes over Ally’s career, taking her from country to pop.
This is where the film shows how out of touch it is with culture, as these days, pop and country are pretty much the same thing. After all, just ask Hootie, who did more than just fine becoming a country artist. Jack starts getting drunker and angrier and drunker and saltier and angrier and passes out after doing drugs at a pharmacy trade show he plays for money. I mean, first off, if you’re gonna do a pharmacy trade show, that’s the best place to smash up some Somas with your boot and do rails of them. Also: if your entire character arc is that you want your girl to have artistic integrity, have some yourself. But let me get to that in a bit.
This is where Dave Chapelle shows up for no real reason at all as an old bandmate named Noodles. Jack proposes to Ally with a ring made out of guitar string and they get married by Eddie Griffin. You might think that I made up most of the previous sentences, but no. I didn’t. Other films non sequiters are the plot of this rambling mess.
As Ally’s star goes up — she’s on SNL with Alec Baldwin! — Jack goes down. They get in a fight about one of her songs being about a guy’s ass and he calls her ugly while she’s in the tub. If it can get any worse, he gets wasted before his tribute to Roy Orbison — who again, deserves better — and then pisses himself on stage while Ally wins the Best New Artist Grammy. I literally yelled from the kitchen, “I predict he pees on himself at the Grammys,” because most of my humor is of the grade school variety. Imagine my glee when I was shown that I was correct.
Ally’s dad — Andrew “Dice” Clay! — yells at Jack and our hero, such as he is, goes to rehab where we learn that he’s tried to kill himself since he was thirteen. Look, I know alcoholism is a disease and all that, but throughout the entire film, Jack has been nothing but selfish. There are no moments where you see goodness in him, only someone who becomes an ogre to his wife when she achieves her dreams. Even after he gets out, she puts her entire career on hold for him. After all, the mean music producer/agent doesn’t want her husband on tour so she just cancels everything.
Jack responds to the love of a good woman by hanging himself while she plays the biggest concert of her life, again proving that he’s nothing but a complete waste of humanity. The dog he adopts is the only good thing about him.
Ally then takes his name and sings the love song he wrote to her at a tribute, which is some redemption, one would think. But really, after way more than two hours of a drunk treating her horribly, it all just makes her seem pretty weak. I mean, at no point did Ally realize that her career success was all due to her hard work and talent. Somehow, all of Jack’s behavior is worthy of cannonization.
Did you get the idea that I didn’t like this one? Oh man — you’d be right. Brevity is the soul of wit and this bloated mess just went on and on, pretty much like this review. Lots of people loved this, it’s going to win plenty of awards and I honestly don’t get it. It’s not for me. It may be for you, if you want to suffer through a clueless woman dealing with a manipulative man child on her way to fame that may ultimately be soulless.
No one speaks — everyone either mumble whispers or screams loudly directly into your ear, which rings with the sound of deafness. This movie is as subtle and interesting as a drunk warbling an Alan Jackson song at supersonic volume, then crying about what a loser her man is before peeing into a garbage can in the bar’s bathroom.