A Star is Born is a story that has already been remade twice prior to this, with the first remake starring Judy Garland being seen as the definitive version of the story – and it’s also one that has stayed with us in our memories for many years since. But because it’s also a story that became representative of what it feels like to go ahead and put your name out in the entertainment industry for oneself to take note of, we’ve already familiarized ourselves with it so much and for good reason at that. So with a newer take on the story being set once again around the world of music after the Barbra Streisand version, what would first-time director Bradley Cooper bring out with him and Lady Gaga playing the leads? To say the very least, the results also turned out to be so much more than what one could hope for – even myself at that. As far as the remakes of A Star is Born have gone, this truly is the best take since the Judy Garland version.
The film starts fitting enough with country singer Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) performing at a concert, but after his performance we see an uglier side to the star; hard-drinking and in a career decline. Soon enough we are introduced to Lady Gaga’s Ally, a struggling musician as she works a dead-end job, but performs at a local bar where Jackson finds her performing – and soon he coaxes her into the spotlight, though not without falling in love. It’s a familiar story about what it takes to find the time in the spotlight, but it’s also one that has remained timeless for many reasons. It’s remained timeless because of how well it resonated with many rising stars in the industry, but getting every bit of it right is yet another task – and for a first-time directorial effort, Bradley Cooper manages to get the job done on the spot. In capturing the struggles that come within the way of rising into the music industry, Cooper best captures the very nature of the scene and makes the ride feel like its own emotional rollercoaster.
It’s only fitting enough to say that a film highlighted by Lady Gaga’s own musical talents would already have her putting nothing but the very best efforts possible into the music, but I’d be lying if I were to say that her performance didn’t blow me away the way in which it had done so. Lady Gaga, who already established herself as a great performer, gives this role (her very first leading role as an actress) everything that she has – but not without the aid of a wonderful chemistry that she shares together with Bradley Cooper. When the two of them are performing with one another, it’s stunning enough how well they work with each other – if their performance of “Shallow” isn’t enough to show all that. Perhaps it’d already go down as the one song people remember most from this film, but the fact that it’s not even the best song from the film already feels like a testament to how wonderful their work together is. But with that having been said, I must admit I was rather surprised about how amazingly can Bradley Cooper sing, as if his own direction doesn’t already allow the energy of the live performances to be experienced at its very best.
This new A Star is Born take isn’t one to let down on a multitude of surprises, but knowing that this only happens to be Bradley Cooper’s first time directing a film it also feels very indebted to capturing how difficult it really is to be within the glory that the spotlight can catapult oneself into. Of course it only feels fitting enough that a first-time director like Bradley Cooper can show such a grand feeling and what happens the moment you recognize you can’t ever find yourself in control of that. And it all rings resonant through Lady Gaga’s performance, which as mentioned previously is absolutely amazing – but Cooper still keeps an unflinching eye on behind the camera every way in which he can. At its best, it feels harsh, but the sting that can be felt remains intact – allowing this take on the story to stand well enough on its own.
Perhaps the familiarity may have already set myself to predict where the film was set to go next, but it’s also the least of the film’s issues. Aside from Sam Elliott’s character (his performance being the best of the entire supporting cast), many others seem to come and leave on such a short notice – this seems to be the case with many of the industry figures that surround Gaga’s character as she starts to rise from her dead-end job and even when she’s in the spotlight. We only ever find ourselves feeling so much for Cooper and Gaga’s characters because they’re the only characters that seem to be fleshed out so much on every corner, whereas many others aside from Elliott never have that time to shine unless Cooper gives them their moments.
A Star is Born isn’t free of its own misgivings, especially the sentimental tone that can feel present in the fact that Eric Roth is one of the screenwriters, but it’s also the best version of the story that we’ve gotten since Judy Garland’s. It’s a film that never lets down on its promise for many surprises, but at the same time it also feels every bit as overwhelmed by what it promises to that point that difficulty also feels like it’s latching on at every moment. Yet every moment that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga share with one another, whether it be onscreen or through the music, you can still feel every bit of the impact running present. You already feel that stars are born from Cooper’s skill as a director and Gaga’s own as an actress – because I’m looking forward to what they have in store next in these fields.
Watch the trailer right here.
Images via Warner Bros. and TIFF.
Directed by Bradley Cooper
Screenplay by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, from the 1937 film written by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell
Produced by Bradley Cooper, Bill Gerber, Todd Phillips, Lynette Howell Taylor
Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 135 minutes