Many have re-made the Hollywood staple A Star is Born since its premiere in 1937, but Bradley Cooper is somehow able to make the fourth rendition the strongest yet. The work is Cooper’s directing debut, and he shines as a co-writer and actor in the production.
Cooper doesn’t make many notable attempts at altering the Hollywood classic. At its core, the plot is the cliché story of an attractive music star discovering the talents of a working girl and launching her to stardom. But Cooper understands the implications of telling such an overdone narrative on the big screen yet again, and he successfully keeps it interesting. This time, the girl’s dreams are just as big as the male lead’s, if not bigger. Despite their love, she insists on pursuing her career independently.
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a rugged country-rock star performing in drunk and drug-induced hazes to overwhelming crowds of screaming fans. He discovers the talents of Ally Campana (Lady Gaga) by chance when he drunkenly stumbles into a drag bar and watches Ally sing La Vie en Rose — one of the film’s strongest moments.
The two lock eyes and their chemistry is undeniable. The film follows the rise and fall of their relationship stemming from Jack’s struggles with addiction and the takeoff of Ally’s career.
Lady Gaga has proven her versatility in the past, having succeeded as a pop star singer-songwriter as well as an actress in the fifth season of American Horror Story. But in her film debut, it’s no stretch to say she portrays Ally even better than Judy Garland (1954) and Barbra Streisand (1976) in previous remakes.
Cooper delivers a noteworthy dramatic and vocal performance as well. Watching and listening to Jack and Ally sing together on stage is magical, as the two vocal powerhouses are incredible alone — and absolutely electrifying together. Their passion is strong with each duet, which speaks to the power of the performers as well as Cooper’s direction.
A Star is Born not only demonstrates the power of film, but of music too. Cooper masterfully connects with his viewers through song, with all the concert scenes being particularly impactful. Cooper’s expert use of music in this version is certainly laudable, and amplifies the strong emotions that the work evokes already.
The realities of show business are evident in the film, as Cooper does not shy away from sharing the truth of addiction. A Star is Born is an old-fashioned story, but its portrayal of the music industry as a chasm of alcohol, drugs and suicide resonates even in 2018.
A Star is Born also reflects Cooper’s opinions on the direction of the talent in the music industry. As the momentum of Ally’s career begins to strengthen, she is no longer heard singing the edgy, raw duets with Jack she was before. While she was once writing deeply personal music, she switches to songs mimicking today’s “bubblegum pop” with catchy beats and unsubstantial lyrics.
Despite some clichés, Cooper expertly incorporates contemporary elements and original twists to his retelling of A Star is Born. Still, the real shining moments from the movie are thanks to Cooper and Gaga’s outstanding performances.
A Star is Born opens Oct. 5.