Both sides now: 'A Star is Born' explores brutality, thrill of stardom

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in "A Star is Born" (2018). (Warner Bros.)

"A Star is Born"
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, Moss Hart (1954 screenplay), John Gregory Dunne (1976 screenplay), Joan Didion (1976 screenplay), Frank Pierson (1976 screenplay), William A. Wellman (story), Robert Carson (story)
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
Genre: Drama, romance
Rated: R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - Synopsis: Jackson Maine, a road-worn musician, discovers Ally, a talented young singer, and lifts her up into the national spotlight.

Review: It should be noted that "A Star is Born" is more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy than it is to a traditional romantic drama. There's something Faustian about its story. You simply replace the devil with the music industry and the pieces fall into place from there.

I offer this warning because the majority of the preview-night audience seemed to be expecting an entirely different movie than the one they were given. There were gasps, audible crying and a general sense of shell-shock. The elderly couple behind me had a particularly epic (and rather colorful) emotional breakdown as the credits started to roll.

"A Star is Born" begins like a roller-coaster ride. Its wild ascent is followed by a dizzy rush that masks the less-inviting aspects of celebrity with a dazzling flash-bang of fame. The film-s second half pulls the darker details into focus as the gauze of glamour is pulled away.

Having worked in the music industry for a decade, I found the film's greatest strength is its brutal honesty. "A Star is Born" is a cautionary tale about sacrifice, ego and heartache.

Bradley Cooper offers a strong performance as a tormented musician, but it is his direction here that really stands out. In his directorial debut, Cooper channels the rawness of Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" while expanding the focus of the narrative to stretch beyond the falling star of a fading superstar.

Lady Gaga is incredibly good. What this says about her future as an actress isn't entirely clear, but she does a tremendous job with this role. Who knows, maybe she'll prove to be as talented of an actor as she is as a songwriter. An Oscar nomination isn't out of the question.

"A Star is Born" lives up to the hype. It's a step above the 1976 version of the film that featured Barbra Streisand and will speak to contemporary audiences in ways that the acclaimed 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason never could.

Maybe it's not the romp that some were expecting, but it is a powerful piece of modern cinema.