A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, is a love story. And perhaps it’s the love story of the decade, primarily because of the explosive chemistry between lead stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
Thee-time Oscar Best Actor-nominee Cooper proves his mastery behind the camera as he weaves his first full-length feature with passion and confidence, giving us a deeply affecting love story infused with breathtaking tunes, sweet guitar riffs and titillating romantic sparks — all done in a raw, gritty style.
A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film. The first remake was in 1954, then followed by the Barbra Streisand-starrer in 1976, and the plot remains the same in Cooper’s version: the guy is a famous singer, who meets a struggling artist, and theirs is a love story that transpires in the midst of music, art, commerce, fame and addiction.
In the 2018 version, a burned-out country-rock musician, Jackson Maine (Cooper), meets struggling singer-songwriter Ally (Gaga) in a drag bar. Beguiled by her raw talent, Jackson soon invites Ally to his gig and sing with him onstage, and her powerful performance instantly skyrockets her to fame, soon eclipsing Jackson, who then succumbs deeper and deeper into his alcoholism and drug abuse.
Cooper co-wrote the script and wrote most of the songs in the movie. The film has a consistent feel of passion, enraptured by romance and music. As already mentioned, Cooper and Gaga have undeniable chemistry, and Cooper knows how to capture the tiny details and subtleties of attraction. He knows how to plant the seeds of romance and express its beautiful and chaotic blossoming.
Cooper renders himself and Gaga as authentic as possible, stripped of glamor, to the point that they look like they never take a bath. But instead of feeling repelled, you are all the more captivated by the realness of their physical looks.
Jackson Maine, with his quilt-textured skin, scraggly beard and grimy hair looks dirty, but Cooper has got too much appeal, especially with those baby blues that are constantly in awe of Gaga. And when he gets up onstage with his guitar, he transforms into a rock god.
Gaga, devoid of makeup, looks like your vulnerable neighbor next door. Not your common pretty, but attractive in her own right. And when she and Cooper get together, it is electric.
What makes the love story thrilling and profound is not just the natural chemistry between the two, but how Cooper lenses the quiet looks, captures the unspoken words and the loaded meaning behind little gestures, the creative passion that binds them, and how Jackson and Ally are both intoxicated by each other’s talent.
The film also examines Jackson’s inner demons with striking empathy. You experience Jackson’s inability to control his substance abuse, and how he is tortured by his tinnitus and gradual hearing loss. He is burned out, disgusted by the era’s poptimism and horrified that his own love, Ally, with her childlike dreams, is being swallowed by Hollywood’s greed and artifice.
Every frame is a visual treat, every line in every song reverberates. Gaga and Cooper sing from their souls, unfiltered and transcendent. The film is packed with rich emotions swimming underneath concert lights and behind smoky filters, and between passing looks and pained exchanges.
It is a love story from beginning to end. True love disrupted by illness and creative temperament. A love story darkened by fame, ideals and industry avarice.
The tragedy in Jackson and Ally’s romance runs deep and uncontrollable. And as the relationship deepens and traverses the complex world of art, fame and personal demons, you feel a frightening sense of uncertainty, and you are desperate for their love to overcome these hammering difficulties.
Jackson’s depression reeks, heavy and tangible, and you understand his unrealistic reaction to Ally’s burgeoning career in the world of synthetic tunes and a Britney Spears persona. And Ally’s undying love for Jackson also shows, sad and moving.
What makes this movie unforgettable is how two people’s love becomes much more life-changing in the suffocating world of fame and celebrity worship. A whirlwind romance so swift and impassioned, and ending as dramatically as it started.
The last song in the final scene disapointingly lacks power and resonance, but the film is, overall, stunning. With memorable country-rock tracks, an intimate and soulful cinematography by Matthew Libatique to complement Cooper’s intelligent, visually incisive directing, and masterful perfomances by Cooper, Gaga and Sam Elliott, I wouldn’t be surprised if A Star is Born makes it to the Oscars.
4 out of 5 stars