“Venom” may be the fall’s box office surprise, but it shouldn’t be. Even mediocre superhero fare makes serious coin. Remember “Justice League” ($229 million) or the odious “Suicide Squad” ($325 million)?
The fall’s big box office story is “A Star Is Born.” Take an untested director (Bradley Cooper) and an equally fresh leading lady (Lady Gaga) and the results could have been disastrous.
Instead, the film shed a tiny 26 percent of its audience last weekend to cling to second place on the U.S. box office charts in its fourth week. So far, it’s generated $148 million, and it could have legs if awards season buzz kicks in.
But … why?
Here are four reasons “A Star Is Born” defied conventional wisdom.
It’s Good (That’s Huge in Our Social Media Age)
Cooper can direct (and sing!). Lady Gaga not only holds her own with her Oscar-nominated co-star but commands the screen all by herself. The film’s middle section demands a trim, but otherwise “Star” is smart, compelling entertainment for grown-ups… without car chases! Even the soundtrack is a smash, an integral part of the film’s narrative. Positive word of mouth is doing its part.
Hollywood’s relationship with romantic movies these days? It’s complicated. Rom-coms are out of style. “Crazy Rich Asians,” a worthy exception, showed we still love to watch people fall in love, though.
The best scenes in “A Star Is Born” find Cooper and Lady Gaga falling for each other. Hard. You can see it in their tentative gestures, those ripe silences and the physical touches that linger. The actors crush these integral scenes, and audiences are responding.
There’s nothing wrong with our current superhero obsession. “Wonder Woman” delivered all the thrills we expected, and then some. Same with “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” There’s still a market for personal stories that speak to our emotional strengths and weaknesses.
Few of us know what it’s like to play before thousands of rabid fans. We all know heartbreak, disappointment and the fear that our loved ones are hurting inside. “A Star Is Born” is unabashedly old-fashioned in its scope, an approach see don’t see that often at the cineplex in the 21st century.
It Connects to Movie History
Most audience members haven’t seen all three previous incarnations of “A Star Is Born.” They don’t necessarily have to in order to sense the connections between them. Each film captured both their respective eras as well as the heavy price of fame. That through line is one reason Warner Bros. decided a fourth version of the classic tale was necessary in the first place.
The public’s sense of movie history did the rest.