I lack the energy and patience to really give a deep dive into A Star is Born. I think the movie is a glorious mess. The first hour is fantastic and then it really loses focus on what it wants to say/do/or be and so it throws a ton of things at the wall before catering to the “This is Us-ification” of current storytelling to force tears from the crowd.
All I wanted to do here is dissect why the most beautiful moment of the movie earned everyone involved their inevitable nominations. I’m not sure anyone will talk about A Star is Born two years from now unless they are directly referencing this scene.
You can see a large portion of this scene in this music video for Shallow:
The scene happens very early in the movie. Coincidentally, the film peaks here too.
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) sends a car for Ally (Lady Gaga) to fly her to his concert a day or so after meeting here. The night they meet, Ally reveals a song she is working on to Jackson in a parking lot. Ally gets in the car and is whisked away to Jackson’s show on a private jet. When she arrives, she is escorted to the side stage and we see Jackson performing to a sold-out crowd. When Jackson learns Ally is there he comes over to her and tells her he wants her to come out and sing that song she told him about and that he put together an ‘Ok’ arrangement for it. Ally obviously thinks he is joking and says no. To which Jackson tells her he’s going to sing it anyway and all she has to do is walk out and he walks back out on stage.
Here is where things take off:
We see Ally acting nervous on the side stage as Jackson starts to sing her song, but a new opening verse he clearly wrote to it. Lady Gaga is tremendous here and you see the confusion, shock, stress, fear, and strength of her character as she listens. She wipes her face, kind of pep talks herself and begins to walk out on stage with a fake confidence that is buoyed by Jackson singing her song. You can read all of that in her physical performance and it’s masterful.
Then Ally walks out on stage with Jackson looking on playing the guitar for her verse to start. Cooper chooses not to have himself looking at the camera from Ally’s point of view, instead of having him look past the movie theater audience to drive home that he is only watching her. As Ally starts to sing her verse Jackson reacts with a smile and kind of turn towards the crowd. We see this movement by Jackson sort of out of focus because Ally is closer to the camera but it is such a perfect shot to emphasize how happy he is that she started singing.
As Ally continues through her verse her eyes are always looking down or over to Jackson who is not in the frame. Her confidence is starting to build and he just watches her with delight, even walking towards her mouthing the words to her song as she sings. Then Ally hits the bridge with the high notes and Jackson smiles like he just won the lottery as he turns to the crowd momentarily that reacted positively to her voice really starting to show.
Ally then covers her eyes while singing and because Lady Gaga is so freaking good in this role it just floored me as I was watching it. Jackson comes back in for the chorus but he is always looking towards Ally. His body is deliberately angled towards her and never towards the thousands of fans. The framing and direction of this entire performance really earn the awards once Ally starts her “Ohhh” part of the song. Cooper shoots this scene again to show Jackson watching Ally perform and gain confidence. Jackson has such a pure look on his face that is really tough to describe. If you’ve ever loved someone talented and watched them just unleash that talent in any situation it is a look that is proud, powerful, supportive, relieved, and just honored all at once. There is such an honesty to Cooper’s directing and his performance as Jackson in this scene that is beautiful. He even turns to his band at one point with a smile that screams proud and can you believe this?
They close the song singing the chorus at the same microphone and then the movie moves on to some other things but nothing ever tops the magic of this part. It was honest. Of course, it is a fake scene, in a fake movie, with fake people but it is honest acting. They made every single moment feel real and feel earned. From directing it was framed and shot in a perfect way to establish Jackson’s feelings while still allowing the focus to be on Ally’s growth throughout the song. The song itself is fantastic and apparently co-written with Lady Gaga and Cooper. The acting by both Cooper and Lady Gaga doesn’t get any better than it does in this scene. To be fair neither of them ever drop below an ‘A’ the entire movie but you have to acknowledge an ‘A+’ when you see it.
Everyone has declared the movie a masterpiece and a once in a generation film. I’m not sure I agree overall, but I do agree that Cooper should be nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, and probably Best Adapted Screenplay. Lady Gaga should win Best Actress running away and any Original Song awards on the ones she co-wrote for the movie. He isn’t in this scene but Sam Elliot deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination too. My main point of this article is that every single reason for the nominations this movie will receive can be seen in one perfect four-minute scene. It was a beautiful moment.