A Star Is Born

Posted: October 11, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Bradley Cooper. Starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

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Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a famous country music star suffering from tinnitus who has a major alcohol problem. After one concert he’s so desperate for a drink that he gets his driver to drop him at the nearest bar, a drag club where he sees Ally (Gaga) perform La Vie en rose. Enraptured by her talent he talks to her after the gig and learns that she’s never been able to break into the music business because of her looks. They talk and sing together and he invites her to one of his concerts where he convinces her to sing on stage with him.

Ally proves a hit on social media and the two fall in love. As time passes she gets a manager and a record deal, but as Ally’s star rises Jackson’s falls and his drinking becomes more and more of a problem…

And so the 4th (or maybe 5th as there’s a Bollywood iteration) version of this story hits our screens, following on from the 1937 original and the 1954 and 1976 remakes. As far as I can tell the basic story has remained the same, though obviously the setting and the players changed each time.

This time it’s the turn of debutant director Cooper and debutant (in a leading role) actor Lady Gaga, and the first thing to make clear is that if you walk in with certain expectations about either of them, prepare to have them blown way, because both are very, very good in a multitude of ways. It’s clear Gaga can sing, but she can also act, as for Cooper not only can he act, but he can sing too, and direct…oh yeah, and he co-wrote the script and several of the songs.

On many levels A Star is Born is a broad, predictable film, but that’s not to demean it, far from it, taking an age-old story and reimagining it well takes talent, and one hopes this isn’t the last time we see Cooper in the director’s chair, or Gaga swap singing for acting.

I’ve been a fan of Cooper’s since he starred as Jennifer Garner’s best friend in Alias, surprisingly not playing the romantic lead. Suffice to say he’s been somewhat pigeonholed since then as the charming pretty boy, but here he clearly demonstrates there’s more to him that that million-watt smile. As Jackson Maine he’s all greasy and gravelly, with a voice that sounds like it’s the product of a million cigarettes, a million whiskies, and a million songs. He’s a broken drunk, albeit a high functioning one, most of the time, and he utterly convinces as a guy thousands would pay to see sing on stage.

As Ally, Gaga eschews the makeup and kooky outfits (at first at least) to effectively play the girl next door, the self-conscious woman with talent who’s too plain to make it. She does this so effortlessly that you’ll forget all about the million selling artiste. There’s a naturalness to her performance that’s honest and refreshing, and if there’s a flaw to her performance it’s that as the movie progresses she becomes less and less Ally, and more and more and more Gaga, but then that’s probably the point.

A STAR IS BORNAlthough it’s a two hander, it’s worth mentioning Sam Elliott as Jackson’s brother. He does sterling work with limited screen time, and I sincerely hope that Cooper, Gaga and Elliott all find themselves with Oscar nominations come next year.

The direction is exceptionally assured, and I really enjoyed the music, at its heart though is the romance between Jackson and Ally, and Cooper and Gaga sell it for all it’s worth. They have natural chemistry, and it helps that the relationship is flawed (as all are) rather than some fairy-tale romance, and in the end you can’t help but realise that each character has selfish reasons to make the romance work. For Jackson it’s the reinvigoration of his love of music, whilst for Ally it’s clearly an opportunity to make a career doing what she loves. It’s to the film’s credit that it never tries to sugar coat each character’s ulterior motives and makes it clear that their romance goes beyond these reasons anyway.

If the film does have a flaw it is in how broad it is, take for example Ally’s manager who’s straight out of central casting and acts exactly how you’d imagine a weaselly record producer to act, but this aside it’s a great film which proves that a simple story told well still has the power to engage and move an audience.

Forget a star is born, I think we’ve just seen several stars born.

Highly recommended.

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Comments
  1. Tracey Cruise says:

    this film absolutely blew me away, both of these actors deserve every award they are up for, quite possibly the best I have since in a very long time.

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