The fall film festival season is in full swing, and one of the films with the biggest awards buzz at the moment is A Star Is Born. Co-writer/director Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where the film received a warm reception, but it’s currently blowing the roof off the Toronto International Film Festival where our own Matt Goldberg raved about the craftsmanship and storytelling. The question now is, is it a serious Oscar contender or a case of overblown festival hype?
I got a look at the movie myself and I’m here to confirm that the hype is definitely real: this one’s in it for the long haul. Cooper proves he’s not just a competent director, but a bona fide filmmaker. He’s confident and assured behind the camera, fine-tuning every single moment and transition as if playing an instrument. The opening act of the film is absolutely rapturous as Cooper chronicles the first few hours of a burgeoning relationship between a fading rock star named Jackson Maine (Cooper) and an unknown singer-songwriter named Ally (Lady Gaga). But the craft throughout the entire film is positively spectacular, from Matthew Libatique’s stunning cinematography to Jay Cassidy’s brilliant, motivated editing.
While this is the fourth time A Star Is Born has been remade, Cooper imbues his telling with a newfound sadness in the Jackson Maine character, along with a refreshingly modern take on the birth of a pop star that is at once epic and intimate. The performances from both Cooper and Gaga are transformative and will certainly be in contention. Cooper delivers the best performance of his career, fleshing out Jackson as not just a lousy drunk but a sorrowful, lonely man with deep-seeded issues. And while Gaga has previously shown flashes of her acting talent on American Horror Story: Hotel, she’s nothing short of a revelation here and is already a serious contender for the Best Actress trophy.
The film also has a shot at supporting recognition as well in the form of Sam Elliott, who plays the salty older brother of Jackson, who’s also doubled as his caretaker as the rocker’s alcoholism has spiraled out of control. Elliott holds his footing when going toe to toe with Cooper, but he has a couple of emotional scenes that could seal a Supporting Actor nomination.
And then there are the songs. No more than two songs can be submitted from any one film, and some studios hedge their bets by really pushing only one song. A Star Is Born has a plethora to choose from, but its biggest contenders are likely “Shallow”—which is featured heavily in the trailer—and the showstopping finale number “I’ll Never Love Again.” Both are infectious earworms as well as wildly emotional moments in the film, and I’ll be shocked if this film doesn’t win Best Original Song.
So could A Star Is Born go all the way? It’s too early to make that call, but it’s a tearjerking crowdpleaser that’s sure to be a blockbuster hit and ticks all the right Academy boxes: impressive actor transformation(s), story about showbusiness, tugs at your heartstrings. Warner Bros. is clearly confident in what they’ve got, and the reviews out of TIFF especially have shown that that confidence is warranted. This time last year La La Land was getting the glowing response out of TIFF, and while that film won six Oscars in total, it fell just short of the top prize. It’ll be interesting to see if A Star Is Born follows a similar—or even more successful—track.
But right now, at this moment, here are the categories in which I think A Star Is Born has the best shot at nominations:
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Actor – Bradley Cooper
- Best Actress – Lady Gaga
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Best Supporting Actor – Sam Elliott
- Best Cinematography
- Best Film Editing
- Best Sound Mixing
- Best Original Song
For more of Collider’s TIFF 2018 coverage, click here.