WARNER BROS PICTURES (2018)
Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
A star is born…for the fourth time.
Following in famous footsteps from iterations of years gone by, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are the next to step into the leading shoes of A Star Is Born - not just content to star, this also marks Cooper’s directorial debut. What do you do with a movie that was first released in 1937 (eighty-one years ago) to avoid it from being much of the same? Give it a fresh coat of star paint and throw in some show-stopping performances as well.
Grizzled musician Jackson Maine (Cooper) juggles playing sold-out shows to adoring fans and being a hard-drinking alcoholic. A late-night stop at a drag bar for a few nightcaps brings waitress/singer Ally (Gaga) to his attention after she belts out a triumphant La Vie en rose to the baying crowd. A couple of drinks, nose talk, and songs later that evening brings the pair closer together culminating in Ally joining Jackson on stage to perform together. As her star rises in the industry, Jackson’s crippling habits and family problems hinder his career as the pair continues to firefight through all of the problems together. Is it a case of all you need is love, or could it be that love will tear them apart?
The classic tale of contrasting fortunes against the backdrop of love makes up A Star Is Born - two people in love with each other’s talents and what burns inside just as much as any physical attraction is what thunders the movie along and, boy, does it thunder – despite a slight sag in the midsection (mainly during an at-odds SNL scene). It could be considered languid for a first-time director to rehash a rehash once more, but when it’s this good and fresh – who cares. This is an astonishingly good movie for any director to deliver, let alone a first-timer and Cooper hits every mark – performances, visuals, cinematography, camerawork, probably even catering too.
Coupling blistering chemistry and individual career-best performances, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (still seems odd referring to Ms. Germanotta as simply that) are magnificent as the troubled couple that power A Star Is Born. Cooper channels his inner-Eddie Vedder and immerses himself within his performance and Gaga is sensational – and that’s even when she isn’t singing. She may have out-Madonna’d her idol here with a crushing performance. Bristling with a real, natural chemistry, the genuine affection between the pair is the heart and soul of the entire movie. If the performances were the heart and soul, then the songs needed to be the pulse and crucially the soundtrack is excellent. Performed by both Cooper and Gaga (co-written with Lukas Nelson, son of the legendary Willie), the songs blend with the narrative so well and help tell the story further – just what a musical requires. The only real downer was Rafi Gavron as the studio executive who felt a bit hammy and clichéd.
There’s a great, warm feeling to the entire movie which gives a near-throwback feeling to a vintage flick, only really stumbling during the aforementioned SNL scenes and a stint at the Grammy’s – they didn’t look bad per se, just felt slightly out of place in the overall picture. The concert scenes are captured brilliantly, you’d expect Gaga to be able to control a stage, but Cooper holds his own and the sounds and editing is spot on – especially on the biggest screen you can find. The first half of the movie is some of the best cinema you’ll see in 2018 and, whilst Cooper does go for the emotional jugular in the second half, it doesn’t detract from the show-stopping finale.
Fuelled by scintillating performances and a stellar soundtrack, A Star Is Born is a magnificent achievement that will capture the hearts of almost everyone that it touches. Sing it loud, this is one of the year’s best.
October 9th 2018