“A Star Is Born” ( 2018)

For me, “ A Star Is Born” (2018) is a fourth remake with the same toxic dose of melodrama as all the others. Why,  Bradley Cooper, why ?  Why not write a new story to show off your singing, guitar and directorial talents?

I’m guessing that Lady Gaga and the fountain flow of economic pay-offs have something to do with the answer. My movie ticket-taker told me she saw your film twice and purchased the sound track. Love at first sight, mentorship, obscurity followed by a shared stage, then acclaim for the neophyte while you, the star, falls~really falls. But, alas, there is no discernible font of innovation here.

Oh,well, before the first screen shot is seen, we hear the fans screaming. In this 2018 version, Cooper is Jackson Maine~ the same Jackson as Fredric Marsh, James Mason, and Kris Kristofferson before him. It is a great contrast to Cooper’s climatic scene where he staggers and crawls up to the Emmy mic and wets himself.

Cooper is very easy on the eyes. The steroid shot in the tush being my favorite. His six-pack side shot does not bemoan his character’s beer drinking, either. He is on beautiful display. Cooper seems to do it all in this film, even fall in love spontaneously. His fourth song, “ Maybe It’s Time To Let The Old Times Die” is how I felt about the Arizona return to his Father’s “gravesite”with its “ hot wind and history”. Editing is not deemed important in “ A Star Is Born” (2018).

But then there is Lady Gaga. ( Stefani Germanatta) As Ally Campana, I like how she labels her dad with “celebrity disease”. Her interplay with her wanna be crooner patriarch is perfect. The family dynamics chemistry better than the romantic. The breakfast scenes better than the bathtub ones. When her dad opines, “It’s all my fault.” She easily rolls her eyes with, “ You don’t have that kind of power, Dad.” She is a mixed bag. Her vulnerability is hit and miss. The same with her uneven acting. I hated her anger scenes, and felt she was stronger in the “triage” role of caretaker. Smashing the hallway memento posters was almost silly, as was her punching the picture taker. Is this what being a modern woman means? Please!

She will be up for an Oscar for best song, but it won’t be for Edith Piaf’s  “ La Vie En Rose”. “ I’ll Never Love Again” showed her real talent.

Sam Elliott is admirable as Bobby, Jackson’s half brother. He makes the most of his scenes without show-boating his tears. My favorite line may be Cooper’s as he is found sleeping in the grass, “in my mind I made it to the door.”

 

 

“Joy”

“Joy” seems to be a crowd-pleaser of a movie. Having been released a couple of weeks ago, the theater is full. The promise of elevating one’s economic class or of hearing the story of a successful sales pitch or just laughing at a family that reminds one of one’s own must be the draw. We first see a black and white soap opera where characters named Bartholomew, Jared and Clarinda vie for their desires. We understand that a grandmother called Mimi(Diane Ladd) will be our narrator, and that she will tell her granddaughter ‘s own story~ a soap  in itself.

The film is well cast. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy (Mangano is never mentioned,and we don’t know how true to life the actual screenplay is), but our protagonist is the doer who doesn’t need a prince and who still reigns as a very successful inventor and designer of a self-wringing mop. Robert DeNiro plays her clueless father and Isabelle Rossellini almost steals the show as Trudy, his current girl friend. Bradley Cooper teams up with Lawrence,again,as he did in “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2012. His smile a little brighter; his sincerity not so much.

The first half has many “laugh out loud moments”. Joy’s unrolled toilet tissue divides her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) of two years and her father’s basement bedrooms. They are both living with her, her mother, her daughter and her grandmother. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) spends all her waking hours whining and watching “the stories”. One of my favorite lines occurred when a plumbing problem disrupted her screen viewing. Joy’s wry sympathy takes the form of ” No tv~ very scary for you,mom.”

There are some creative screenplay and camera elements like close-up silhouettes, dream sequences, and a winter sail. This may be story writer Annie Mumolo’s. The “four questions of financial worthiness” keep watching 300 feet of continual cotton loops looping more interesting. For those who watch QVC ( Quality Value Convenience), HSN (Home Shopping Network )or “Shark Tank”, you will be right at home. Joy makes some stupid mistakes, recoups, persists, and remembers where she came from to mentor others after she succeeds. The end is a tad too congratulatory and repetitive. We know she is an American winner, and that many aspire to her dreams. David O. Russell, director and also script writer, loves the underdog. Enjoyable,but long.

“Burnt”

In this restaurant film when lovely blue thistles are displayed London-side, we are ready for a prickly chef; but, two-starred Michelin winner Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is known for sending out porcupine quills. With his bad-boy eye glints, Cooper can play an arrogant prick and so can Matthew Rhys, his co-star. The “Hell’s Kitchen” kind of abuse with the screaming, throwing and demands for control and perfection is much of the film, for sure. But there are surprises. Sy Omar’s cayenned palm being the most memorable. In fact, the supporting cast is what makes this film work. Uma Thurmond as charmed lesbian food critic, Emma Thompson as uncharmed therapist, Daniel Bruhl as besotted owner and maitre’d all bring the hum of life to the food scene.

This testosterone kitchen where “good” means “not good enough”is the Langham. We get the twelve-tone scale as background music as we see scrupulous dishes prepared,plated and delivered. Saliva flows and forks are lined-up,water glasses filled and wine paired. A spot on a glass, a fingerprint on a platter’s edge will keep the goal of a third Michelin star at bay. Sienna Miller plays the talented sous chef,Helene. Her single-mother status and pluck contribute a romantic and familiar interest. How else to change the narcissist! Writer Steven Knight has written some good lines especially for Reece ( Matthew Rhys). He books a reservation under his priest’s name so he can give the last rights.

Cooper makes us care about his second redemption: we have endured his penance of shucking one million oysters already. We get the drugs, the womanizing, the alley fights, the ” would-you-work-for-me-for-nothing” arrogance; the releasing of rats on the completion, not so much so. His Parisian badness still earns him the knives of his mentor Jon-Luc and the forgiveness of Jon-Luc’s daughter. Director John Wells gives us a well-made date movie while not tasting anything new. I’d say “yes,chef” to this one for a slice-of-life savor. There is strength in needing others probably can not be said enough times. No bodies were found floating in the Thames,or sighs at the movie’s end.