Between the glowing early critical reception for Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” and the cast’s endearing and emotional press rounds on the film festival circuit, a narrative primed for Oscars glory is already being written.
Variety called the film starring Lady Gaga in her first big-screen role “luminous” and “a total emotional knockout.” Time said it was “a terrific melodrama for the modern age.” The Hollywood Reporter declared it “a durable tale of romance, heady fame and crushing tragedy, retold for a new generation with heart and grit.”
As the cast has made its initial press rounds — first at the Venice Film Festival, then the Toronto International Film Festival — they painted themselves as a family, trading accolades and praise for one another at every turn.
“I’ve never had an experience like this. I’ve never been anywhere near someone like this,” Sam Elliott said, putting his hand on Lady Gaga’s shoulder in an interview with ABC, “that’s as huge as she is on a worldwide level and somebody that’s as talented as she is.”
Lady Gaga called first-time director Cooper a “brilliant filmmaker” on a red carpet.
The recipe for Oscar favorite is being followed to the letter, but will that translate?
History is a poor indicator.
In 2016, ‘La La Land,” backed by the superstar power of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, emerged as the one to beat after its screenings at the major festivals.
Much of the language used to describe that film’s Oscar prospects in early reviews is now being written about “A Star Is Born.” (Even the reviews are overlapping a bit. Variety, 2018: “A Star Is Born” is “set in the present day, but in spirit it’s a sophisticated retro ’70s drama.” Variety, 2016: “La La Land” “is set in contemporary Los Angeles, but its heart and soul are rooted in the past.”)
In the end,”La La Land” famously failed to take best picture from the artistic clutches of “Moonlight” — despite Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty’s attempt to convince us otherwise.
Last year’s eventual best picture winner, “The Shape of Water,” faced stiff competition from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” coming right out of the festivals. The former won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, while “Billboards” won the people’s choice award at Toronto.
“The Shape of Water” was not a big money-maker for its studio and certainly didn’t have the selling power of a Lady Gaga-like figure behind it. But one Hollywood Reporter critic theorized its win over other very topical nominees like “Get Out,” which had a domestic gross of more than $175 million, and was a result of it’s ability to capture ” the zeitgeist in a less on-the-nose — and therefore, perhaps, more digestible — way than the others.”
All this is to say, early buzz, big names, and box office bank are all unreliable factors in the race for Oscar. That, however, should not dull the shine of “A Star is Born” or the charming hope that it can deliver.