It’s not surprising that ‘A Star Is Born’ underwent the fourth rebirth with remakes on the rise. The latest version released in 1976 starred Barbra Streisand, but the 1954 version featuring Judy Garland arguably reigns supreme. Perhaps the track record this story has with the academy drove the motivation (2 out of 3 winning Oscars) or maybe this was an opportunity to introduce a classic to a younger audience. Whatever the case, Bradley Cooper had quite the task of not only acting in and directing ‘A Star Is Born’, but presenting this familiar narrative in a refreshing way. Yet in true underdog fashion, he may have just produced the best picture of the year.
Stumbling onto the stage, sweaty and pale from his alcoholic indulgence, we first meet Jackson Maine (Cooper). He picks up his guitar and plays to an energetic audience, but it’s obvious from the start that his spirit is dying and his career is barely hanging in the balance of his alcoholism. He’s become a victim to his vice. But cue Ally (Lady Gaga) – appearing in a drag bar performing ‘La Vie En Rose’ dressed in black and living for the applause. Some might say the real challenge she faced with this debut is to revert back to a time where she herself was struggling to be heard as an artist, pouring her heart out on stage, but these doubts are quickly stomped by her fierce octaves. You fall in love with her instantly – alongside Jackson – and it’s here that her talent can’t dare be denied.
Gaga’s performance as Ally is both persuasive and masterful. The realism and vulnerability she projects on screen are a far departure from her usual eccentric-self. There’s an obvious channeling of feelings from her previous experiences and rejections; she knows when to show restraint and when to roar, as she’s thrown into the new and exciting world of fame. The concert scenes are stimulating, authentic and transportive. And the outstanding soundtrack only adds to the magic. Gaga’s talent aside, one cannot ignore Cooper’s soulful performance. He’s spectacular as a cowboy crippled by both physical and mental pain — the abuse and addiction of his father and the tinnitus that has caused a ringing in his ears since birth. Even his deep voice captures the grit and regret of a hard-living man. It becomes clear that Ally embodies the hope that he desperately wants to cling onto, but unfortunately, she’s not prepared for the severity of his addiction.
‘A Star Is Born‘ is a fiery shot of industry truth and tragedy. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is something to witness, and the weight of each situation is beautifully orchestrated without becoming overdramatic. The cinematography and sense of intimacy are incredibly hypnotic and one can’t help but be emotionally invested. ‘A Star Is Born‘ is the tale – yes – but really a director is made. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!