This review contains major spoilers. Do not read if you plan on watching the film.
A star is born is clearly split in two acts, with the first act being the superior of the two, while the second act unfortunately drags the film into familiar, dramatic, formulaic Hollywood territory.
The first act is a cinematic wonderland that moves at a deliciously slow pace and sets up its well drawn characters carefully. It is clear from the start that Ally has distinct boundaries and will protect herself. Jack, on the other hand, has trouble distinguishing between reality and fame.
The scenes are slow and the shots long; from the perfectly framed alley where Ally dumps the trash while singing “Over the rainbow”, to the first time she sings live on stage, the actors are given time to breathe, to live, on screen. Ally and Jack’s first encounter is thrilling to watch, frame by frame. The drag queens and Ally’s father and his friends were nice touches.
The second act goes off the deep end by speeding up the pace and trying to cram too much into the film. You lose touch with the characters; you lost interest in what happens to them. The narrative also feels outdated and, quite frankly, ridiculous.
(Major spoiler alert warning #1:) Jack’s drug habit gets out of hand, and he embarrasses Ally at the Grammys by walking up during her acceptance speech and pissing his pants. According to A star is born, this derails Ally’s career. In 2018? No way. You would get some bad press, and that’s about it.
(Major spoiler alert warning #2:) Jack is informed that his relationship with Ally is killing her career, because she won’t go on tour and leave him behind, and he, apparently, even though fresh out of rehab and still clean, will never be clean. He hangs himself. In their garage. Where she would find him. Just before she must go on abovementioned tour. In 2018? Do we still think that is romantic? That she has no agency? That he cannot clean up? That they cannot function without each other?
What would have been a more interesting film is if they had argued over their music styles. Clearly, Jack is annoyed with her going into pop music and being flanked by dancers. This subject is never investigated.
A star is born, apart from its faults, manages one thing deftly: to launch Lady Gaga’s acting career. (American horror story does not count.) She outshines (and outsings) the veterans in this film. Go Gaga.