Bradley Cooper showed his prowess for directing with his debut, the 2018 version of A Star is Born. In some aspects, the way the camera moved - and the way the story flowed - makes it seem like Cooper is a veteran in the field. The musical performances immediately immerse the viewer, making it seem like they are witnessing the songs from firsthand experience. Outside of the magnificently captured concert sequences, there’s a deeply affectionate love story about a man whose fame has gotten to his head - and the young lady he falls for, who ignites the audience once she joins him onstage. It’s a giant improvement from the low-key clubs at which she usually performs. But all the fame and glory comes with a price, as we have witnessed in many other stories prior to Cooper’s retelling.
Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a veteran country singer who doesn’t say no to a drink. One night at a bar, he notices Ally (Lady Gaga) belting out a French tune to perfection. The two fall for each other and begin working on songs together. He sees her as hitting it big, while she’s nervous about her financial stability and what’s going to happen to her father (Andrew Dice Clay). One day, after her boss calls her out for being “late again,” Ally decides to risk it all and go with Jackson on tour. Her duet with Jackson on the song “Shallow” gets her instant fame and all the stardom she didn’t expect. But while her career is taking off, Jackson’s is fading - thus leading him to more depression and drinking.
It’s not exactly a novel idea, but the way Cooper handles the latest iteration of A Star is Born is both impactful and realistic. Having and then losing it all, as well as the sudden shock of recognition and fame, are the film’s key focal points, and they don’t sidestep any of the personal details that come along with them. Sam Elliott does tremendous work as Bobby, Jackson’s much older half-brother and manager, who tries to keep the singer in line and tell him what is not just best for his career but also for his health. Jackson, though, is a stubborn man and thinks he doesn’t need the advice.
Elliott, usually cast as the tough, rugged type, plays someone who lost his shot at stardom but is supportive of the family member that made it big. No matter how difficult things get, Bobby is there. Even when there’s a noticeable strain in the relationship with Jackson, Bobby tries to meet in the middle of it all. His performance goes beyond the disposable side character type and offers some incredibly poignant scenes in the film, especially toward the final act.
From the opening moments in which Jackson performs “Black Eyes,” Cooper thrusts viewers into the excitement of watching a live concert with the ear-piercing sounds and catchy guitar riffs. There then becomes an instant desire for Cooper to go on tour with the songs from the soundtrack, and, of course, to have Lady Gaga duet with him. When the two get together for the first time, the chemistry is undeniably strong and heartfelt. Their shared moments of laughter and pain hit home to those who have gone through the struggles of any relationship.
Gaga is no stranger to the acting world, having carried her unique persona to cult films and television shows such as American Horror Story and the Machete and Sin City sequels, all of which are apt for the award-winning musician. But for A Star is Born, she ditches the upscale, oddball décor and makeup for a more down-to-earth approach and embodies your average singer/songwriter trying to make it big. And when she does, she experiences the struggles of having to survive and stay relevant in the industry, which leads to struggles in her relationship with Jackson. It’s out of the ordinary for Gaga, but she is able to take the role head-on without any issues.
The Blu-ray release for A Star is Born Encore doesn’t come with any special features on the disc itself, other than one section that separates the musical moments from the film, and the viewer can enjoy them individually. The 12 minutes of footage inserted into this edition include extended performances of some songs and more detail on certain scenes. We get a little bit more time with Dave Chappelle’s character, but it still feels like he needs more to really have the viewer connect to him. The big plus of the new footage is the one song that was cut from the original version. “Is That Alright?” is an extension of Ally’s wedding vows to Jackson and is a terrific song in a moving scene. While some of the new scenes don’t feel necessary but have a nice added touch, the inclusion of “Is That Alright?” is the one much-needed moment that fans originally missed.
The presentation of the Blu-ray comes in 1080p with a 16x9 format and a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. The concert scenes come to life with this excellent transfer and the lighting and camera angles. The sound comes on a Dolby Atmos True-HD track to capture the instruments without missing a beat. In addition, this release comes with the theatrical version of the film, so viewers can watch both and see what the differences are.
While A Star is Born Encore doesn’t feel like it brings a whole lot more to an already great movie, some of the new scenes are truly worth it. It adds more detail to the romance between Ally and Jackson, and the story of Jackson’s downfall and struggles. The performances are incredible from practically everyone involved, and the emotional moments are just as investing as the concert sequences. I look forward to seeing what Cooper has in store next as a director.