clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘A Star Is Born’ Is the Best, Worst, and Most Befuddling Movie of 2018

Because every day brings a new story that makes the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga–starring film sound like a disaster—while at the time another story makes it sound like an all-time classic—here is a running post compiling the perplexing movie’s increasingly perplexing press tour

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga pressing their heads against each other Warner Bros. Pictures/Ringer illustration

Do you hear that noise? I hear it too, some sort of guttural yell, a plea to the gods to be heard. It’s getting louder no—

Lady Gaga signing into a microphone with Bradley Cooper smiling in the background. The caption reads: “HAAAAAAA AH AH AH AHHH” Warner Bros. Pictures

This can mean only one thing: The press tour for Bradley Cooper and Stefani Germanotta’s—sorry, Lady Gaga’s—musical drama, A Star Is Born, is gearing up. The movie, which hits theaters in October and, again, is a remake of a remake of a remake, has become one of 2018’s most-talked-about films since the first trailer dropped in June. Due to some combination of Lady Gaga being in a starring role, Cooper directing for the first time, early murmurs dubbing the movie a classic, and of course the image of Cooper sticking his head out of a car window looking quite jaundiced, A Star Is Born is the sweet, sweet nexus of prestige-inclined cinema and memeability. Not since HBO’s The Young Pope has a piece of art been so befuddling and so tantalizing. A Star Is Born is either going to be the best movie of the year or the most baffling misfire in recent memory and biggest winner at next year’s Razzies.

Which is why we just had to introduce Star Watch: an ongoing collection of updates from the movie’s press tour that reiterate just how gloriously confusing it is. Perhaps a month from know we will know if A Star Is Born is a masterpiece or a disasterpiece; until then, this is all we have.


Monday, August 27: A Star Is Born Is the Greatest Movie in the History of Cinema

Reviews are not out for A Star Is Born—it won’t debut until Friday at the Venice International Film Festival—but one website did accidentally publish a review early, and, for narrative sake, it was the best possible review of A Star Is Born that could have ever been prematurely published. What Talkhouse inadvertently unleashed upon the internet by publishing filmmaker Jim Hemphill’s review is akin to the opening of the Ark of the Covenant, because according to Hemphill, A Star Is Born might be … the greatest movie ever made?

Hemphill compared his viewing experience to the first time he watched Goodfellas, Boogie Nights, and Unforgiven—some of the greatest films ever made—and compared Cooper’s directorial debut to that of Robert Redford, with Ordinary People (read: very good). Furthermore, Hemphill wrote that “Cooper has somehow figured out how to marry the precision of a [Alfred] Hitchcock or [Stanley] Kubrick with the emotional generosity and psychologically probing nature of a [John] Cassavetes or [Elia] Kazan.” OK, then! To recap: Cooper may be one of the best filmmakers of all time, and the movie itself may be as good as some of Martin Scorsese’s and Paul Thomas Anderson’s best work. As if I weren’t already struggling to parse my feelings about A Star Is Born, Hemphill comes flying off the top rope and basically calls it the best movie ever made. The hyperbole of it all is confounding, and yet, very fitting.

Thursday, August 30: Hell Yeah, This Soundtrack

While you’ll have to wait until A Star Is Born’s October release to listen to the soundtrack, you can look at the track list right now and let it burrow into your mind. The first thing you need to know about this soundtrack is that it features 15 dialogue tracks that, quote, ”take listeners on a journey that mirrors the experience of seeing the film,” as if listening to people talk equates to a cinematic experience. (That being said: I would watch this movie in 4DX if someone poured Bradley Cooper’s whiskey on me.)

The second thing you need to know is that Lady Gaga is, bizarrely, covering “La Vie En Rose,” and I am not quite sure how the film is going to necessitate such a thing. The song titles in general serve as one giant spoiler mapping out the plot of the film—where Cooper and Gaga make their pitstops (“First Stop, Arizona,” “Memphis”), how they see the concept of love (“I Don’t Know What Love Is”), why they did that (“Why Did You Do That?”), when they go to Saturday Night Live (“SNL”), and where they presumably copulate (“Hair Body Face”).

This is puzzling without even getting into the fact that five songs are credited solely to Bradley Cooper. Again: How on earth is this going to be the greatest movie of our lifetimes?

Thursday, August 30: Lady Gaga’s Close-up (and Bradley Cooper’s Makeup Removal Techniques)

There is a lot wild stuff in the Los Angeles Times’ feature on Lady Gaga’s preparation for her role in the movie, a classic “I’m Trying As Hard As Possible to Win an Oscar” profile. Let’s rank the five best, most “how is this a real thing?!” details.

5. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper developed a special bond on set and used code words like “Tony” and “Ninja” to communicate with one another. (In case you’re wondering, “Tony” was meant to evoke a feeling of warmth, and “Ninja” meant that she needed to focus. True brilliance from this generation’s Stanley Kubrick.)

4. Lady Gaga makes a very clear distinction between her own musical upbringings and that of her onscreen character, Ally. “What’s different from Ally than me is that when I wanted to become a singer, I hit the concrete running,” says Gaga. “I was dragging my piano from dive bar to dive bar to play music. I was calling people, faking being my own manager to get gigs. I really believed in myself that I could do this and that I wasn’t going to stop until I made it. … The truth is, when we meet Ally, she’s given up on herself. And that’s very different from me. I just wasn’t overwhelmed by the odds.” Man, really throwing Ally under the tour bus here, aren’t we, Lady Gaga?

3. For the movie’s concert performances, Lady Gaga says she decided to “tone things down.” Um, about that …

Lady Gaga signing into a microphone with Bradley Cooper smiling in the background. The caption reads: “HAAAAAAA AH AH AH AHHH” Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Gaga reveals that as a child, she would watch the Oscars “wrapped in a gown made of blankets” and accept a fake Oscar next to her television, atop a crate. [Whispers] I think Lady Gaga wants an Oscar.

1. The profile begins with a quote from Cooper saying, “Take it off.” (I gasped.) Fortunately, it becomes clear that Cooper was referring to Gaga’s makeup; unfortunately, it becomes clear that he was referring to Gaga’s makeup, and that he himself wanted to remove it from her face. “Completely open,” he added. “No artifice.” The image of Bradley Cooper wiping Lady Gaga’s makeup off and then sumptuously (I’m assuming) saying, “No artifice” will be etched in my memory until the end of time.

This is the best movie of the year, folks.

Friday, August 31: A Star Is Born Screening Struck by Lightning (Seriously), Gets Emotional Reviews

The Venice Film Festival was the venue for the first public screening of A Star Is Born. Things got off to a fitting start:

Headline reading, “Lady Gaga’s ‘Star Is Born’ Premiere Struck by Lightning’

Technical difficulties delayed the screening for 15 minutes, Variety reports, during which Lady Gaga was “chuckling and blowing kisses to the audience.” And just to give you a better mental picture, she was doing all of this while wearing Villanelle’s poofy pink dress from Killing Eve.

Was the lightning strike a biblical warning that A Star Is Born is not meant for mortal eyes—that it is either too epically brilliant or too disastrous for the human mind to properly process? Is Lady Gaga a stronger cosmic force than God? Who’s to say?

As it turns out, the reviews that came out of that screening were equally rapturous. Variety hailed the movie as an “emotional knockout” and described Cooper’s character as having “hard-bitten shit-kicker sexiness”; The Guardian said A Star Is Born provides “dilithium crystals of pure melodrama”; and Entertainment Weekly praised Gaga for her “human-scale performance” (?) and “real-girl vulnerability.”

Well, those are positive! The reviews are a promising sign that A Star Is Born is not as bizarre as certain shots from the meme-able trailer implied. But I still don’t know. For some reason, it still feels like the world is playing a joke on all of us. I will withhold judgment until I’m personally sitting in a theater being moved to tears by Bradley Cooper’s whiskey-throat wailing.

Thursday, September 6: Bradley Cooper Touches Lady Gaga’s Nose

A Star Is Born dropped two exclusive clips on Thursday—one of them, with Dave Chappelle and Bradley Cooper, is a pretty conventional, well-acted conversation between two pals. The other is the opposite of conventional. A scene featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, it is billed as Cooper giving a “rousing speech.” In actuality, it is a scene about how Cooper’s character—who is actually named Jackson Maine—is obsessed with Lady Gaga’s nose, which she believes has been holding her back in the music industry. “I’m gonna be thinking about your nose for a very long time,” says Maine. “Let me just touch it for a second.” And then he does. IN SLOW MOTION.

There is less than a month until A Star Is Born hits theaters. It will be the longest month of my life.

Friday, September 7: A Star Is Born Dazzles TIFF, Dares You to Call It Overrated

Another film festival debut, another chorus of euphoric reviews. After taking the Venice International Film Festival by storm (literally, given the lightning strike that hit the theater), it was more of the same at the Toronto International Film Festival, and in place of inclement weather were conflated metaphors from overstimulated critics.

… Is that a good or bad thing?

The actual reviews were no less exultant—for Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Mashable praised Gaga’s performance, writing, “For large swaths of the movie, I forgot that I was watching one of the most famous musicians in the world—she was just Ally.” (That’s quite impressive, considering she is Lady goddamn Gaga.) HuffPost, meanwhile, delivered a retroactive apology to Cooper for not appreciating the thespian’s work sooner: “I’ve rarely connected with him as an actor, and now I’m wondering how wrong I’ve been this whole time.”

It was JoBlo, however, that really brought the heat by suggesting that people will think A Star Is Born is overrated, and that those people will be wrong. “People will certainly write opt-ed’s [sic] asking if its overrated, but frankly it’s among the few movies I’ve seen recently that delivers an unmistakably emotional journey.” Hmmm. OK. So maybe it is overrated, and people are just getting a little overhyped at a film festival. Remember when TIFF lost its collective mind over Three Billboards last year?

Monday, October 1: Bradley Cooper Replaced with Early-Era Westworld Robot

With A Star Is Born getting its nationwide release this weekend, the film’s press tour has reemerged and kicked into full gear. It’s been 32 days since the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and it feels like an entire year has passed since then, so it’s understandable that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga might be a bit exhausted by now. But Cooper’s behavior on two different British programs in the past four days makes me think something else is happening with him: He has been replaced with a robot, and not a particularly expressive one at that.

Here he is on Friday’s episode of The Graham Norton Show, alongside Gaga, Ryan Gosling, and Jodie Whittaker. (Sidenote: That’s one hell of a couch!) Gaga was recounting a truly incredible story of how she learned Cooper could sing—he went over to her house and they ate days-old pasta refried on a pan, with the singer emphasizing they’re both Italian Americans, which, don’t worry, we got—and showing a sincere appreciation for her costar’s talents as a performer. Meanwhile, this is was Cooper’s face the entire time:

Did someone tell him to freeze all motor functions? I’m at a loss here—like, Graham Norton is a pretty lit show as well (see: Mark Wahlberg) and he’s barely even blinking.

But Robo-Cooper wasn’t finished yet. On Monday, in an interview with This Morning’s Alison Hammond—a delightful journalist who once blessed us with a hilarious conversation between herself, Ryan Gosling, and Harrison Ford—she jokingly sang for Cooper. Meanwhile, this was his face the entire time:

Someone please recharge Bradley Cooper’s batteries, thank you.

Tuesday, October 2: Gaga Fans Create Venom Smear Campaign—Yes, Really

Venom and A Star Is Born are both technically movies, and sure, they’re coming out in the same weekend, but they have very different goals. Venom is a big-budget superhero cash grab that’s (probably) going to be a disaster; A Star Is Born is on a collision course with the Oscars and is probably going to make bank by virtue of its prestige (and the pop star at its center). In other words, nobody is looking at Venom and thinking, “Uh oh, A Star Is Born better watch out!”

Nevertheless, the Gaga hive—they call themselves Little Monsters—has been posting fake early reviews bashing Venom, and frankly, they’re unreal. Some of them talk about how dismayed they were watching Venom and how it’s one of the worst movies they’ve ever seen; the best ones, however, immediately bring up A Star Is Born as the perfect antidote for the Venom trauma caused to themselves and their many children.

@AnneHarrisonMom rules. (Little Monsters typically pose as suburban moms, for some reason.)

This is extremely extra. Furthermore, it’s probably not even necessary—Venom is hurting itself simply by existing and looking objectively awful. Overall though, what a great, fitting way to wrap up the absurdity that has been A Star Is Born’s rollout. Is it Friday yet?