A Star Is Born [2018] ★★★½

Bradley Cooper has managed to do the impossible: take an old-fashioned Hollywood story that’s been done and redone so many times before (in 1937, 1954 and 1976), hire Lady Gaga to play the lead, and turn it into one of the best films of the year. In many ways, “A Star is Born” pays tribute to these old movies, but it also stands on its own by telling its story in a way that feels fresh. Let me put it this way: I loved every minute of it. And yet I have to admit: when I heard that Cooper was working on this remake, I didn’t anticipate such an ambitious piece about dreams realized and unfulfilled in the music industry. And I certainly did not anticipate a terrific soundtrack to go along with it. In terms of plot, I’ll only say that Cooper plays a famous musician who helps a young singer (Gaga) find fame. The success of such a story relies heavily on our ability to root for these characters, and you couldn’t ask for better actors to fill these shoes. Gaga, in her first lead role, is truly sensational. And Cooper, his face a road map to his character’s soul, gives one of the best performances of his career. As for the movie itself, its grounded in reality, but also manages to transport us to a world of fame and fortune in just a heartbeat. It’s obvious that Cooper isn’t merely doing this for the sake of a quick paycheck; this is a labor of love that emerges as something poignant and truly memorable. Put your prejudices aside and take this “remake” on its own terms. That’s what it deserves, because “A Star is Born” is one of the year’s best films.

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