Like sands through an hourglass so are the days of our lives, and like rocks through a cement mixer so are the sounds that Bradley Cooper hocks out of his throat over the long, long, long two plus hour course of A Star is Born, the latest and most audaciously over-praised take on the decades old tale of fame's fickle bitch qualities. Buckle up, folks, this is one bumpy shake rock and rattling ride - somebody let me the hell off of this thing.
You'd think that Jackson Maine (Cooper) wouldn't so sound dry-throated all the time, given his tendencies to cartoonishly lubricate with bottles of brown liquid tucked away in every nook of his person (you'd be forgiven for thinking once or twice or possibly dozens of times of Nancy's Mom in A Nightmare on Elm Street, pulling her booze from between the towels in the hall closet), but then he's a man of greasy hair and greasier attitudes, and oh right Sam Elliott is standing right there. So buck up, B-Coop - manly business ahead! Stick out your business end and get a testosterone shot, toots - Oscars hang in the balance.
Oh I know, I know - I am a terrible cynic, and this pure-hearted melodrama means to be sweet pop entertainment, with big broad emotional swings. Its final scene, a dead echo off better Beaches, should have us all weeping and shuddering and gnashing our foaming mouths in our seats at the gorgeous and simple schmaltz of it all, something something. And A Star is Born did indeed have me smiling for its first solid hour or so. Its early instincts are well-managed, leaning into the true charms of its twin star power. Cooper sings beautifully (his speaking voice, well, that's a whole different ball of ear-wax) and smiles moreso, and he wears loose open shirts with great aplomb; Lady Gaga gets to be the center of attention and so her performance, at that point, rings true enough.
And then, like a love hangover, the sober light of day hits this sucker, the goggles are off, and good lord it's hard to see my own wee cynicism anymore in the face of this manufactured pablum, a Wilhelm's Shriek of shoddy gears shoved into the shape of a gasping heaving wreck of a thing. Scene to scene flails about in a timeless airless vortex of shabbily constructed moments - you can hear the ghost of Kim Novak whispering: "Here I was born and here he died, twas only a Diane Warren Ballad to you; you took no notice."
Fame, it turns out, is a two-edged sword! The music business, it turns out, isn't always concerned with quality! Why, I gasped, dear readers. The insight was cutting - or maybe that was just the seat cutting into my bored rump, who knows? It's as clear as A Star is Born's timeline anyway, a formless lump of lifeless staring tableau - Jackson stares at Ally, Ally stares at Jackson, the dog stares at a pile of burned meat and I stare at the back of my eyelids remembering how I have always been so against owning a watch and how if I weren't so anti-watch I could be staring at my watch right now counting down the seconds until I could run, run, run from this cursed theater and feel air and life on my cynical, wretched, free man's face again. Sing, sing to me of freedom, heavenly angels, I am coming home, closing all the windows, and drinking all the demons quiet, whisper quiet, again. (There, did I get melodrama right?)