Stars: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot
A Miracle Birth
Cooper’s A Star Is Born had everything going against it when it was announced. Hollywood is renowned for its lack of originality but remaking a film for a third time is garishly lazy, even for them! It began with Janet Gaynor in 1937, then Judy Garland had a go in 1954 before passing the song-and-dance baton onto Barbra Streisand in 1976. I mean, how many times can a star really be born? Well, apparently the answer is at least four times as our Lady Gaga is now having a go playing the reluctant starlet rising to fame. Gaga wouldn’t have been an obvious choice for a leading lady after her horrendously wooden stint in American Horror Story which bizarrely earned her a Golden Globe. Type-cast pretty-boy, Bradley Cooper also wouldn’t spring to mind as the perfect leading man, let alone as writer and director. The whole project sounded doomed from the beginning.
However, ladies and gents, take those cynical hats off because by some miracle turn, Bradley Cooper’s version of A Star is Born isn’t just good, it’s pretty much great on all levels. Following in the footsteps of the 70’s Barbra Streisand version, Cooper unsurprisingly decides to focus on the music industry rather than the movies. This means that both leads find themselves outside of their comfort zones as Cooper must pretend to be a world-class singer and Gaga has to do a Cher and become both a phenomenal singer and actress at the same time. Somehow, they both manage to pull it off.
Bradley Cooper is more known for his comedy roles in The Hangover and the films of Academy favourite, David O Russell (The Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle etc.) and has given no indication of just how far he can stretch his acting abilities. Here, he completely transforms himself into Jack, the raging alcoholic with a troubled past and a penchant for popstars. I’d certainly be very surprised if he doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination for his performance which at times feels painfully all too real. Gaga also impresses as Ally, although this is a role which doesn’t particularly stretch her as an actress. A popstar playing a popstar rising to fame wasn’t exactly going to be difficult for her, at one point she mentions being signed with Interscope Records (her actual record label) and you wonder if she’s really acting at all. She really does mesmerise in the singing department, however, and the scenes involving heated arguments feel frighteningly genuine.
The plot itself sticks quite faithfully to all the other Star is Born’s. Alcoholic superstar falls for talented nobody and transforms her into a superstar whilst he spirals into a deadly hole of addiction, whilst almost derailing her career. It’s a very simple story and the film does feel quite overlong. The first half is the strongest and paciest section. After about and hour or so, the film does start to feel a little repetitive and I was left wondering where else it was going to go. What packs a real punch though is the ending. Of course, it won’t come as any surprise for those who have seen any of the other versions of the story, but here it’s no less powerful and executed pretty much to perfection.
Cooper’s directing is also very arresting. There’s a very raw and real feel to whole film which grounds the film in a reality rarely seen in Hollywood blockbusters. The camerawork is often handheld and intimate so that we always feel close to the characters and their lives. Whilst I wouldn’t quite say that the film is an instant classic like some critics, A Star is Born is well worth your time. If not least for the powerful ending which sees both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the very top of their respective games.