The Evanstonian

Films with Finder

Evan Finder, Staff Writer

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A Star Is Born

This is the fourth film version of A Star is Born and many critics question whether anything new or interesting can be added to the story. Bradley Cooper was not one of those people; he directed, co-wrote and starred in this project.

The story takes off when Jackson Maine, a famed country rock singer (Bradley Cooper), sees a woman named Ally (Lady Gaga) singing at a bar and is blown away. The two fall in love, and Jackson helps Ally jumpstart a career in the music industry, but Jackson’s alcohol and drug addictions jeopardize her career as well as his. The film features several original songs such as “Shallow,” a title that could also apply to the film itself.

Cooper’s performance admirably attempts to bring what little depth it can to a film that, in every other way, feels like it was made in a factory, packaged and sold to the public in a box. Cooper has been lauded for his work as a writer on the film, but it may have been wiser to defer the credit or at least use a pseudonym. The script does not at any point in the film deviate from the standard drama formula. Every line is cheesier and more obvious than the last, and the characters are blander than a bowl of oatmeal. Sure, Ally’s a talented singer, but that is about it.

The story of a self-destructive artist and his rocky romance with a woman that he meets is one that has been around for even longer than this movie feels, but that does not mean it can’t be presented in a unique and exciting way. Hollywood has proven, once again, that no matter how dead a horse is, you can always beat it more.

First Man 

Damien Chazelle’s last two films, the pulse-pounding masterpiece Whiplash and the nostalgia-filled musical La La Land, were both about talented people who are driven to succeed at what they do, for better or worse. The same can be argued for his latest film First Man, however the anxiety and tension takes place in the confines of numerous spacecraft. First Man tells the story of Neil Armstrong, chronicling the successes and failures of his career as well as his relationship with his wife and children.

The history in the film gives audiences the thrill of experiencing a realistic depiction of an astronaut giving the film humanity. The audience can really feel the contrast between the claustrophobia inside the pod of a rocketship and the grand openness of outer space.

The score by Justin Hurwitz gives the pivoal scenes a further excitement, and the quieter scenes an elusive feeling. Hurwitz won an Oscar for the score to La La Land but his talents were used better in this film to complement the story, rather than distract from it. Ryan Gosling gives one of the year’s best performances as Armstrong, giving the character a subtle intelligence and at the same time a cold reservedness.

First Man is not as tight or as powerful a film as Whiplash, but it cements Chazelle’s status as one of the most talented and versatile young directors working today.

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Films with Finder