Reviewed by special request, you know who you are. Sorry that it took me so long, but I did get it out before Monday.
Remakes have quite a bad reputation among filmgoers. People will often make up their mind about a remake as soon as it’s announced. “Why can’t people come up with original ideas anymore?” an average filmgoer will ask, ironically adding nothing new to the conversation. The simple fact is that filmed remakes have been around since the first decade of the art form, and some of them have been better than they might get credit for. ‘The Fly’ (1986), ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (2001), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004), ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978) are all fantastic. Even my favourite film of all time, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982), is technically a remake.
This film is either the fourth, fifth, or sixth screen version of ‘A Star Is Born’, depending on if you count the 1932 film ‘What Price Hollywood?’ which the 1939 version of ‘Star’ supposedly plagiarised, or the 2013 Bollywood adaptation ‘Aashiqui 2’. Regardless, this is the fourth screen version to bear the title of ‘A Star Is Born’. Let’s go through them really quick…
The 1939 version lays the foundation for the story, but ends up falling short, hampered by dealing with some heavy themes while being very watered down because… well, because it was made in 1939. The 1954 version is often considered one of the greatest films ever made, following the same beats as the ’39 film, but with better acting, direction, set pieces, and music. 1976 is cheesy in spots, but good fun all the same, better than ’39, worse than ’54, but still probably my personal favourite of the three. So how does this latest iteration stack up?
Put simply, this new version is… fine… It’s no masterpiece, it’s something I’ll forget within a month or two, something I’ll feel no need to watch again, but I didn’t dislike the time I spent with it. It’s a perfectly adequate night’s entertainment. I will say I don’t understand where all the universal praise is coming from, there really wasn’t much special about the film. I’m glad this story got a modern-day update, purely because the older films dealt with some pretty heavy themes that can be more fully explored today, but in the end, I’m not sure that’s enough to make it rise above the rest.
The acting was pretty fantastic. Bradly Cooper, doing his best Erik Hoffstad impression, is fantastic, as is Lady Gaga, to the point I completely forgot that I was watching Lady Gaga. Sam Elliott played Sam Elliott as he always does, a positive as a fan of his, although I kept expecting him to start narrating about The Dude. The supporting cast all did their job well, I fully believed everyone in their roles. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cooper and Gaga get their fair share of nominations.
What about the music? This is supposed to be a musical after all. Well, I’m no music critic, I mostly just listen to the same hundred or so songs on repeat, but even I can firmly state that the soundtrack to this film isn’t great. To my ears, the songs ranged from tolerable but forgettable, to actively bad. Thankfully the songs take a backseat to the drama much of the time, but they do occasionally drag the story to a grinding halt.
Overall: It’s always tough to review a film like this. A really bad or really good film is always going to be easy to review, “This film is really good because…” or “really bad because…”, but it’s hard to review something that’s middle of the road. This film is fine, that’s it. Most everything about it is above average, but nothing about it is special. It’s not something I can recommend against, but wait for it to hit television in a few months, don’t rush out to see it, I certainly didn’t.
Middle of the road, but recommended.
[Originally published November 17th, 2018]