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Top 10 Things A Star Is Born (2018) Did Better Than the Other Versions

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Did you know that there were past iterations of A Star is Born? For this list, we’re taking a look at ways the 2018 version of “A Star Is Born” improved upon its Hollywood predecessors, released in 1937, 1954, and 1976. To analyze these films in depth, keep in mind we’ll need to delve into a few spoilers. This version is definitely the most adult take on the story! Its portrayal of substance abuse is especially genuine, which isn’t surprising given director, star and scriptwriter Bradley Cooper’s own personal experiences with addiction early on in his career.
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Top 10 Things A Star Is Born (2018) Did Better Than the Other Versions


A star is born . . . again! Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things “A Star Is Born” (2018) Did Better Than the Other Versions.

For this list, we’re taking a look at ways the 2018 version of “A Star Is Born” improved upon its Hollywood predecessors, released in 1937, 1954, and 1976. To analyze these films in depth, keep in mind we’ll need to delve into a few spoilers.

#10: Tighter Pacing

On paper, every version of this story essentially follows the same formula, touching upon themes of love, loss, and the price of fame. Up until the latest interpretation, people generally agreed that the 1954 version starring Judy Garland told the story best. If this classic film has one drawback, it lies in the pacing department. Originally premiering with a runtime of 182 minutes, the film was cut down to 154 minutes for its general release and later restored at 176 minutes. In any case, each cut of the film feels overstuffed at times. The 2018 version condenses just as much drama, passion, and heartbreak into a solid 135 minutes, demonstrating that sometimes less is more.

#9: It’s the Most Adult Take on the Story

Although they were released in 1937 and 1954, the first two iterations of “A Star Is Born” still grappled with serious subjects, including addiction, troubled marriages, and even suicide. The 1976 film was rated R for its depictions of sex and drug use . . . yet all three are fairly tame compared to the 2018 remake. It isn’t just the nudity and profanity, it’s the fact that this version seems to have the best understanding of the real-world issues at the story’s heart, pulling no punches. Its portrayal of substance abuse is especially genuine, which isn’t surprising given director, star and scriptwriter Bradley Cooper’s own personal experiences with addiction early on in his career.

#8: Its Male Lead’s Breakdown

Every version of this story builds to a pinnacle moment where the female lead wins a precious award and the male lead interrupts her acceptance speech in a drunken outburst. The scene plays out a little differently in the 2018 version. When Ally wins the Grammy for Best New Artist, a wasted Jackson follows her onstage, but he doesn’t try to steal his wife’s thunder or insult their peers. Rather, Jackson is so intoxicated that he urinates and collapses. While his actions are still inexcusable, Jackson’s breakdown not only comes off as less forced here, but also more tragic. Instead of just empathizing with Ally, we feel for both her and Jackson.

#7: More Focus Given to Supporting Players “A Star Is Born” has always been a tale of two lovers and the 2018 film doesn’t deviate from this tradition, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga both dominating the screen. Unlike the other versions, though, this film leaves room for the secondary characters to shine. Sam Elliott, who’s been in the business for nearly 50 years now, gives one of his best performances as Jackson’s older brother. We also get some welcome dramatic turns from actors better known for their comedic chops, including Dave Chappelle as Jackson’s lifelong friend and Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s father. These supporting players bring even more emotional weight to the story, making for a true ensemble piece.

#6: It Represents its Time Period the Best
The times may change, but showbiz more or less remains the same. Perhaps this is why “A Star Is Born” has been successfully remade so many times. Even without drastically shaking up the story, each version feels unique and that can be largely attributed to the different time periods. The 2018 film best encapsulates the era it’s set in, getting the modern entertainment landscape down to a T. Since society in general has come a long way over the past few decades, the latest film is also more fleshed-out in its portrayals of women in power, the LGBT community, and alcoholism. This version is thus timely for contemporary audiences and timeless for future generations.

#5: The Female Lead’s Transformation
From the moment she meets Jackson in a drag bar, it becomes clear that Ally is going to be the most modern version of this character, named Esther in the previous films. Stacked up against Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga also goes through the most noticeable physical transformation. Considering Gaga’s eccentric reputation, she’s almost unrecognizable when we first see her without any makeup. Of course, as Ally climbs the ladder of fame, her hair is dyed, her wardrobe becomes extravagant, and she turns into a regular pop princess. This puts a stronger emphasis on how Ally evolves throughout the film, as well as how her relationship with Jackson changes.

#4: It Has the Best Music

Believe it or not, the original 1937 film was not a musical. The 1954 version, on the other hand, is one of the most celebrated movie musicals of all time, featuring perennial songs like “The Man That Got Away.” The 1976 film took a page from its predecessor, incorporating several hit songs, most notably the Oscar-winning “Evergreen.” 2018’s “A Star Is Born” is the most effective musical, however, as each song propels the narrative forward. Just listening to the film’s soundtrack, it feels as if you’re being told a story with songs like “Shallow,” “Always Remember Us This Way,” and “I’ll Never Love Again” - all perfectly personifying what our main characters are experiencing.

#3: A Better Backstory for Its Male Lead

In the other versions of “A Star Is Born,” the female lead was typically the most three-dimensional and relatable character. In the 2018 remake, though, Jackson is every bit as interesting as Ally. This is primarily because more time is dedicated to Jackson’s roots, revealing that his mother died in childbirth, his father was a hard drinker, and his brother is the closest thing he ever had to a parental figure. This not only provides greater insight into why Jackson struggles with substance abuse, but also makes for a more complex character study. Although Fredric March, James Mason, and Kris Kristofferson all turned in powerful performances, Cooper really takes the role to another level.

#2: The Male Lead Is More Sympathetic
One thing the male leads in these movies each have in common is that they all meet tragic fates. In the first three movies, however, the men are often narcissistic, jealous, and even abusive, making it harder to sympathize with them. Jackson’s poor behavior isn’t so much a product of his ego as it is a side effect brought on by his history with alcoholism and mental health problems. Even when Jackson says hateful things to Ally, it’s because he thinks she’s squandering her potential as opposed to feeling emasculated by her success. While not perfect, the fact that Jackson is battling a disorder makes his actions more identifiable and poignant.

#1: It’s the Most Human Version

The previous versions of “A Star Is Born” all had their fair share of melodramatic moments, especially the Streisand installment. Cooper could’ve veered into similar territory in his film, but instead turned in a brutally honest depiction of love, addiction, and stardom. Whether they’re performing together onstage, flirting in a parking lot, or having an argument behind closed doors, the dynamic between Ally and Jackson couldn’t be more authentic. Gaga and Cooper shape their characters into fully realized individuals, giving the film an at times almost voyeuristic feel. By taking a grittier, more grounded approach, the 2018 remake emerges as the most human interpretation of this classic story to date.
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