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Five Reasons Why “A Star is Born” Sucks

October 6, 2018

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I wanted to like A Star is Born. I loved the trailer and raved about it in my New York Times column. Then I saw the movie, and it’s the worst piece of wet kitsch I’ve endured since The Greatest Showman. (If you loved The Greatest Showman, you can stop reading now, because you probably loved A Star is Born, too.)

How did I hate A Star is Born? With every fiber of my being. Let me count the ways.

Bradley Cooper doesn’t know the difference between acting and impersonating. The best performance is A Star is Born, paws down, is given by Bradley Cooper’s real-life dog, Charlie, who plays his character’s dog, Charlie. I didn’t doubt for a second that Charlie was a dog. I didn’t believe for a second, on the other hand, that Bradley Cooper was an alcoholic, drug-addicted, grizzled country singer. He seemed like he was doing an impression of a country singer — specifically, Kris Kristofferson, who played the same role in the 1976 version of this Hollywood chestnut — with a little bit of Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart thrown in, and a whole lot of Sam Elliott, who plays his brother. The fact that Cooper’s character, Jackson, admits he stole his brother’s voice doesn’t make it any less an act of dramatic theft.

Lady Gaga is ga-gorgeous from the get-go. Yet the whole movie rests on the fact that no one has noticed how beautiful her character, Ally, is until Jackson comes along because everyone’s always told her she’s got a big nose. (Was this left over from the script for the Barbra Streisand version? Now that’s a magnificent schnoz!) Jackson’s fixation on Ally’s facial features grows creepy: He peels off her fake eyebrows; he wishes there were a big billboard of her nose; he has an odd habit of smearing cream pies all over her face. This is romantic?

The dialogue is way too on the nose. And not in just the nasal-fixation scenes. The script, co-written by Cooper, telegraphs its lines. When Ally resists a producer who’s  trying to turn her from a fresh-faced singer-songwriter into, well, a Lady Gaga-like diva, she declares, “I am what I am!” That’s not screenwriting; that’s Popeye.

The music isn’t exactly “Evergreen.” Her rendition of “La Vie En Rose” aside (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t written for this movie), none of Lady Gaga’s songs are one-millionth as catchy as such pieces or pure pop perfection as “Bad Romance” or “Poker Face.” The best song in the movie contains the line, “We’re far from the shallow now.” Oh no, I’d say you’re deep in the shallow now. Why couldn’t they hire Paul Williams to write new songs like he did for the Streisand version? Mr. Williams is alive and well; I recently talked to him on the phone. His music is ageless and evergreen; the new score is dated and stale.

Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle are wasted, and that’s no joke. I could’ve watched a whole movie about Clay’s character — Ally’s frustrated-crooner dad — and his fellow limo-driver pals, played by such great character actors as Barry Shabaka Henley and Michael Harney.  And Chappelle is reduced to playing the poor-but-happy childhood pal who helps Jackson rediscover his soul by sitting him down for a home-cooked meal. It’s the kind of demeaning trope he used to spoof so mercilessly on Chappelle’s Show. Maybe Dave’s been hanging out with John Mayer too much lately?

A star may have been born, but I was just bored. Late in the film, Jackson reveals that he tried to hang himself with a belt when he was 13 years old and failed. I found myself wishing he had succeeded — it would’ve saved him, and me, a lot of misery.

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16 Comments
  1. What kind of weirdo reviewer wishes for a 13 year old, albeit a fictional character, to kill himself…

  2. Ally Maine permalink

    Five Reasons your mom should have aborted you:

    Ugly rat
    Miserable
    Biased
    Wannabee
    Still Alive

  3. What the hell… saying a 13 year old kid should have killed himself to stop you from watching this movie? I can’t believe I just read that. Sickening

  4. Matthew permalink

    see a psychologist

  5. TV Gord permalink

    You remind me of Billy Bob Thornton circa 2000-2001, because you’re making Monsters Bawl.

    I’m sorry that you’re getting backlash while I am getting a chuckle out of this absurdly righteous indignation over a fictional character’s suicide. That’s really grasping a straws to blame you for giving this film a bad review. I hope they don’t watch South Park, because what happens to Kenny over and over again in the first few seasons might induce apoplexy…and he’s much younger than 13!

    [To prevent fictional suicide (and possibly to outlaw belts), please call 1-800-555-4321.] For whom the bell tolls charges may apply.]

  6. Trixie permalink

    Thank you for writing this. I hated it, and cannot understand the rave reviews.

    Some other things that bugged the shit out of me.

    1. You touched on it, but the nose thing? She doesn’t have a big nose. It made no sense.

    2. So Chapelle literally finds him passed out pissed to the gills on his front lawn but within a few hours encourages a wedding to poor Gaga? That seems plausible.

    3. So the cartoonish slimy agent tells him he’s ruining her career as she’s about to go on some huge European tour? So how exactly is her career ruined?

    4. And in order not to screw her tour and put a pause to her career, he does what he does in the end? Ohhh kayyy.

    5. Sam Elliott is more than 30 years older than Bradley Cooper. Why not just have him play the dad for God’s sake?

    Just so many plot implausabilities. Bad writing, terrible editing.

  7. Jbug permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. I cannot believe the ‘rave’ reviews. This film was a total waste of my 2h 17 min. It was excruciating to sit through. Creepy is an understatement.

    • Trixie permalink

      I was laughing while others around me were bawling. I felt so alone.

      • Exactly. This was just a big anti-male production. He made her famous and never a thank you.
        What a terrible waste of a Saturday night. Brutal. Dice was great though.

  8. Joe Blow permalink

    Spot on. Terrible script, terrible directing, terrible editing. Just terrible.

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