Inspired by the acclaimed 1976 film A Star Is Born starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, Bradley Cooper’s contemporary directorial debut sees his very own ageing country music star, Jackson Maine, discover Lady Gaga’s wannabe singer, Ally, taking her under his wing to kickstart her career. As she shines, his star begins to fade and he battles with alcohol, drug abuse and his inner demons threaten their relationship and also his life.
Featuring a number of outstanding songs, A Star Is Born is one of those rare films that manages to live up to its hype. A terrific showcase not just for Cooper, but also for Lady Gaga, and both are simply brilliant in a bittersweet love story that’s as joyous as it is tragic.
With his director’s hat on, Cooper manages to create moments of delicate intimacy even when surrounded by thousands of people at a concert and manages to place the viewer on stage alongside the actors to make them feel part of the action with amazing authenticity. With his actor’s hat on, most definitely a Stetson, Cooper’s quite unrecognisable from previous roles he’s played. From his deep Southern growl to his sweaty unhealthy pallor, he’s every inch the star well past his best before date.
Perhaps a surprising casting choice, Lady Gaga more than holds her own opposite Cooper and whether she’s singing a power ballad or intimate confessional her voice is absolutely sensational. Her cynicism with the music industry is surely a reflection of her own experience as a pop star on the rise and it’s fascinating to watch as her emergence takes on a life of its own. Every now and then a glimpse of the real Lady Gaga breaks through as she sometimes looks a little too comfortable as her confidence grows, but that’s easily forgiven.
Amidst all the highs there are some minor lows. Ravi Gavron’s music producer is a misfire as his English accent jars and brings him to the brink of parody, plus a Saturday Night Live section, complete with Alec Baldwin, feels like an unwelcome, garish invasion of bright modern life trespassing on the more subdued world we’ve become accustomed to.
At two and a quarter hours A Star Is Born is arguably 15 minutes too long, but worth watching for the two terrific leads and outstanding soundtrack. It’s a haunting, memorable movie that shoots and definitely scores.