A Star Is Born (2018)
It feels weird to be this touched by a story told this many times, though Shakespeare manages it often enough. My past interactions with the tale were the Judy Garland version and The Artist (which seems to be omitted when we talk of remakes of the story, but it really obviously is). The Garland version left no impression, probably a mix of coldness to older film and often to the navel-gazing nature of movies about movies at the time, though I did enjoy The Artist which does that same thing, but with more pizzaz. In this latest telling, like the 70s remake, it avoids the issue by being about musicians rather than actors.
Lady Gaga (and I guess she's being credited that way) is a fascinating presence in the role of Ally. Having recently watched the documentary about her, I can see the parts of her life she would draw from to capture the early part of her character as full of self-doubt, and perhaps ironically when Ally makes it big, it comes off as a sell-out phase (complete with really awful music) that arguably represents the Lady Gaga that we first became familiar with (though her style of attention-getting pop was never as awful as branded Ally). In between, and perhaps at the end, we see the more recent version of Gaga with less of a mask and a more folky sound. So between this reality to draw on, and the fact that so much of her persona is performative, seeing her display quality acting skills is not surprising.
But the role of Ally, ultimately, is one of audience surrogate, welcoming us into the life of Jackson Maine so that we can observe his ups and downs and feel affected by them. In capturing his depression and alcoholism, this film became the most emotionally impactful for me since Les Miserables some 6 years ago. Watching this struggle that so often feels like an unstoppable train, left me a bit broken in my seat as the credits rolled. Then as now, I respect a film that has that kind of physical effect. For the time my top film of 2018.
P.S. Was very excited by the Brandi Carlile cameo. It's almost like this film was pandering to me.