“A Star is Born”
In case you’ve forgotten her glitzy pop anthems, Lady Gaga is a star in its fullest form — radiant, awe-inspiring, bright.
In “A Star is Born,” she is Ally: a girl-next-door who lives with her father and his friend group of private drivers; a burgeoning superstar, with the attention of country-rock legend, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper); and a deep well of empathy and forgiveness, burdened by Maine’s struggles with substance abuse during their relationship.
Even with the joy of Ally’s newfound success, the movie is undeniably tragic. The crowds at Ally and Jackson’s performances are huge, but we’re kept close to their faces throughout the film as they experience the highs and lows of modern celebrity and love.
“A Star is Born” is as gritty as it is glamorous.
The ethics of the film can feel gross at times. Ally is surrounded by men who control and interpret her career, from her father’s watchful (though loving) gaze to Jackson’s position as a music industry gatekeeper. We learn Jackson’s name almost immediately, but it takes a while for Ally’s name to stick. Soon we see and hear it everywhere — billboards, “Saturday Night Live,” the Grammys.
Until then, however, she is half-invisible, a clever plot device to highlight her rise to fame. Ally is performing “La Vie en Rose” in a drag bar when Jackson first sees her — her real eyebrows are covered and replaced by pencil-thin lines of tape.
She covers her face when she belts out the climax of “Shallow” for the first time onstage.
This blurring of her real identity would be inexcusable, but the script — and Gaga’s performance — prevent her role from slipping into submissive. Ally fights back when insults are thrown at her. She reinvents her star persona, chooses to leave out backup dancers and picks out her new hair color independently.
Cooper’s name may be plastered over newspapers, posters and the credit sequences (he directed!), but Gaga’s chameleonic grandeur lifts the movie to its full potential.
She emotes — with every gaze — as flawlessly as she belts.
In Tamara Jenkins' Netflix film, couple Richard and Rachel’s private life is dragged into the public sphere — their struggle with infertility is lugged to dinner parties, restaurants, doctors’ offices and adoption websites.
Richard (Paul Giamatti) is a former theater artist and current artisanal pickle maker. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a writer. Together, they live in a trendy New York apartment with plants, racy art made by their friends and two very cute dogs.
Were it not for Jenkins’ intimate look at the day-to-day (and month-to-month) struggles that Richard and Rachel face, the couple might just seem perfect — the kind of smart, witty people who would star in a dramedy like this anyways.
When their step-niece Sadie (Kayli Carter), a 25-year-old Bard College writing student, needs a place to crash in the city, they open their door to her. They become surrogate parents and she becomes a potential egg donor. Sadie is written to seem a little delusional, or at least obsessed with the artistic life Richard and Rachel lead — “how Instagrammable,” she comments over an (admittedly picturesque) breakfast spread at their apartment.
With its warm lighting and blue tones, "Private Life" is beautiful. But Hahn and Giamatti remind us of the pain in their story. As Rachel, who is undergoing the physical burden of their never-ending struggle, Hahn can indicate the character’s frustration with a single stare.
The rest of their family is equally talented. Molly Shannon, for example, plays Cynthia, Sadie’s mother who lives in the suburbs. She’s controlling, but presents the moral dilemma of Sadie acting as a participant, not just a bystander.
Jenkins doesn’t really offer us resolution to the problem at hand; we instead only see a slice of their story. "Private Life" is a well-written, human look at the very real struggle of infertility, absolutely worth streaming thanks to the talents of its performers.
Also new this week:
“Venom,” a new Marvel movie starring Tom Hardy. Metacritic score at time of review: 35. Closest showings to campus: St. Anthony Main Theater and AMC Rosedale.