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December 16th, 2018

A Star is Born: *1/2

“A Star is Born” is the runaway hit of the season. It is getting great reviews and it is going to be nominated for Best Picture.

I don’t get it, though. This isn’t a well-made movie. To me, “A Star is Born” is a sloppily made melodrama from a first-time director who yearns for the white male dominated world of the 20th Century.

Writer/director/star Bradley Cooper’s first misstep was to have the lead character be a drunken country-rock superstar who is hounded by adoring fans everywhere he goes.

In this America, there is no such thing as a guitar-strumming superstar with a cowboy hat. I can picture exactly one country singer: the guy who Peyton Manning torments in those Nationwide Insurance commercials. But I don’t know his name and I most certainly wouldn’t fawn over him if I saw him on the street.

Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine, however, is somehow so popular that he can’t walk into a gay bar on drag night without being ogled and drooled over. It is at this drag show that Jackson first lays eyes on Ally (Lady Ga Ga).

The first half of “A Star is Born” isn’t terrible. Jackson and Ally’s first date is pretty romantic. It’s also a little sexist, though. Jackson compliments Ally on her looks repeatedly, and creepily, throughout the date.

First off, it is simply bad form to repeatedly compliment a woman’s looks on a first date. Second, the movie is written so that Ally swoons every time Jackson suggests that she might be good-looking enough. Give me a break. A 30-something woman who looks like Ally has been called beautiful a hundred times by creepy dudes. Bradley Cooper treats her like a deformed charity case.

I guess there was a time in the mid-20th Century when it was novel to have an ethnic starlet who wasn’t blond and blue-eyed with a small nose. But that time is long gone. A key plot-point is that Jackson is the only man who believes Ally is acceptably presentable enough to be a star.

But that’s completely absurd. It is a known fact that a woman who looks JUST like Ally was the biggest pop princess in the world ten years ago.

It is no spoiler alert that Ally becomes a star. It is a minor [Spoiler Alert] that Jackson and Ally get married.

Ms. Ga Ga is being given rave reviews for her performance, but Cooper doesn’t give her a chance to play a realistic character. Ally is a rising superstar with a jealous junkie husband bringing her down. But Ally is always upbeat, good-natured, and forgiving.

Ally is an angelic caricature, not a real woman. In real life, juggling a career in music with a troubled husband is an unimaginably stressful experience (RIP Whitney). Ally never gets angry or overwhelmed.

 In the end, “A Star Is Born” would have been an almost worthwhile movie experience if the music was any good. But it’s not. Jackson Maine’s ballad Maybe It’s Time is pretty. Ally’s first song on stage is good. But the rest of the music is boring.

All of Ally’s solo songs are bland. That’s a total disappointment, because we all know that Ms. Ga Ga is capable of making catchy pop hits. I get that it is part of the story that Ally’s songs are mediocre and soulless, but what this movie desperately needed was a little Lady Ga Ga. Instead, all we hear is Radio Blah Blah.

Hey, I’m happy that my mom and most moviegoers liked “A Star is Born.” I think it stinks, though. It feels like a relic from a time that I’m glad is gone.

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