Rocket Raccoon has a reputation as the Guardian of the Galaxy who machine-guns equal measures of bullets and bad language. In that sense, he’s like a fusion of two more characters played by Bradley Cooper: He’s a gunner like American Sniper‘s Chris Kyle and he’s a snarling cuss monster like, well, the latest Cooper character — Jackson Maine in the latest remake of A Star is Born.

And that comes as a surprise.

I walked into what I believed to be a sort of prestige picture, a remake of a melodramatic musical so classic that it can be rightfully credited with establishing certain silver-screen cliches, and I was ready for it to feel formulaic. I was also prepared for this to feel like the coronation of Lady Gaga as a Grade-A movie star: As Ally, a made-to-order pop starlet, she’s playing a role far less distinctive than the one she actually inhabits in today’s musical cast of characters.

But I wasn’t prepared for this to feel more like a Bradley Cooper vanity project — one in which he orchestrates every gaze — from the camera’s adoringly upturned angles to the hero-worship wetness of the leading lady’s eyes — in a clear attempt to announce himself as The Sexiest Man Alive.

Cooper sets himself in all kinds of spotlights.

Add to that the bizarro-choice of replacing his voice with a Sam Elliott impression so overbearing that I found myself straining to endure. But we’ll get back to that later.

You don’t need a plot synopsis from me on this film: You already know it’s a rags-to-riches story of a down-on-her-luck Ordinary Girl who works as an [Insert Difficult Job She Can Flamboyantly Quit] and who still lives with her dad. You already know she’ll be discovered in an unlikely [Insert Sexy Meet-Cute Here] by a Drug-Addicted Superstar. You know they’ll have the slo-mo Love-at-First-Sight necessary for us to want his worldly success to save her… and her conscience to save him.

Lady Gaga plays Ally, a performer far more familiar and formulaic than the one she actually is.

You can sense it coming if you haven’t seen the trailer: the glorious moment when he thrusts her into the spotlight and the world loses its mind in the first flush of her irrepressible onstage passion. You can just as easily sense the trouble coming: If the extreme close-ups of Jackson Maine taking drugs, Jackson Maine taking swigs, Jackson Maine taking more drugs, Jackson Maine drinking everything in sight don’t tell you what’s coming, neither would reading a Wikipedia synopsis before the movie.

To be fair, Cooper the Director has put together a convincing-enough world of arena-rock shows, big audiences that worship his character, backstage road-crew expertise (featuring a Designed-for-Oscar Supporting Role for an almost-always-crying Sam Elliott), and flashy imitations of the Grammies and Saturday Night Live that complete his representation of the “Riches” after the rags.

Things get weird when, after Cooper’s Sam Elliott impression starts getting old, Elliott himself shows up demanding his voice back.

But the inevitability of Cooper’s storytelling is amplified by the haste with which he moves through its pop-song routine. After the first 45 minutes that do a halfway-decent job of developing Ally’s character as a spirited singer who’s as likely to throw the first punch in a barfight as she is to confess her insecurities about her looks to a drunken Casanova on their first grocery-store date, Cooper leaps from one All Caps Scene to another. It’s like we’re watching a lengthy, spoiler-packed trailer of a longer movie’s major moments: the Big Rock Numbers, the Substance Abuse, the collaboration montages, the Bathtub Intimacy, the Jealousy of the Success Story He’s Launched, the Further Substance Abuse, and the Pending Crisis.  I haven’t seen the original or the other remakes, but this sure doesn’t make that prospect palatable. (I can only hope that earlier versions don’t have this Edited for ADD pace.)

Cooper gives Ally a lesson in how to make hit songs and get the big spot on SNL almost overnight.

Melodrama, as a genre, eschews subtlety. But the way some of these scenes play big basic chords as if they’ve just invented them, it feels like watching a great pianist try to hit the highs of a Chopin piano concerto on a five-button Baby’s First Keyboard. That big scene set at the Grammies, which may as well have a chapter title “Calamity!”, is downright embarrassing — and not in the way it intends to be. (“Far from the shallow,” my eyebrows.)

And all along the way, Cooper carpet-bombs his scenes with f-bombs as if it’s possible to cuss your way to an Oscar. The aggravation of this is exacerbated by the Rock God posturing, the fake accent, and the generic early-’90s Seattle rock vocals. I mean, come on, Cooper: As an actor you can be pretty good… but Eddie is Vedder.

Who knew there were so many American Sniper fans eager to serve as extras in an arena?

As a result, Cooper is to this movie what Jack is to Ally’s career: He’s the thing that makes the beginning possible and the thing that nearly spoils everything for her. She’s too good for him. She’s too good for this movie.

It might be worth some chuckles to see a supercut of Cooper’s curses from A Star is Born re-dubbed with an impression of his Rocket Raccoon voice. Outside of that, I doubt I can stomach revisiting anything from this movie.

But judging from the sniffles I heard all around me during the steroidal moments of angst and crisis, A Star is Born might be just the kind of Super-Sized Escapism that could win an Oscar. Maybe in these times of unfathomable violence and destruction in the world around us, moviegoers are so desperate for escapism that they need heavier doses of the same old illusions. Maybe they need to believe, if only for 145 minutes, that what matters most are the sufferings of a white male celebrity who can’t properly enjoy his success, and a pop goddess whose rise to glory is interrupted by harsh realization that alcoholics make terrible boyfriends.

Turns out it’s a bad idea to hitch your dreams to someone who almost always reeks of alcohol.

To steal a line from the movie: Lady Gaga, “it wasn’t your fault.” You’re a star. No argument there.

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