Bradley Cooper joins the elite group of screen performers that have gone on to ace it behind the camera. With the music-fueled drama A Star is Born, Cooper showcases a confidence in filmmaking that belies his lack of directorial experience… Yes, let’s get it out of the way: A Star is Born is a very good film.
The buzz that A Star is Born has built on the road to and since release is certainly well earned. The fifth remake of the story that first came to the screen with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in 1937 is a relatively straightforward drama, but one infused with strong direction, fantastic performances, and an overall assured, lived-in tone. You fall in love with these two individuals, which is key to any great romantic tearjerker.
The story tells of Jackson Maine (Cooper), a famous country singer with a penchant for hard-drinking and drugs. One night, after a concert, he decides to head to a random bar for drinks. Waitress and aspiring singer Ally (Lady Gaga) is soon on the stage, capturing all in the vicinity with her impressive rendition of Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”. The two end up hitting it off, their attraction to one another almost immediate, their chemistry undeniable. Before long, Jack has convinced Ally to join him on tour, placing her on a path to potentially realise her dreams of making it big in the music world.
And so begins a story of love, talent, celebrity, and addiction. The screenplay that Cooper co-wrote with Will Fetters (The Lucky One, The Best of Me) and Oscar winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) unfolds effortlessly, with a reliance on naturalism and character, and emotional honesty as a crucial driving force. The overall narrative itself is more ‘witness the lives of’ than a plot-heavy story, so it comes down to Cooper’s ability to deliver emotionally charged scenes while skirting around obvious melodrama in order for audiences to be affected. And affected you will be.
Cooper knocks it out of the park on the screen, giving a sweet-natured (at least when he’s sober), emotional turn as a man who has long struggled with internal demons. He’s lost in the world, and although he probably can’t see it at first, he’s grabbed onto Ally as a life support. And it certainly helps that he can sing; Cooper trained to get his voice up to scratch, and it’s paid off.
Speaking of singing, Lady Gaga, who we all know can deliver the notes and provides a number of rousing moments in the film, is absolutely brilliant here. She puts in a performance that feels completely honest, finding her character’s soul with every line spoken and sang. Ally goes on quite the emotional journey from when we first meet her, and Gaga pulls us in at every moment. It’s award-worthy.
The soundtrack, naturally, plays a big part in the film, capturing the story’s emotional beats wonderfully with catchy melodies and soulful lyrics. The soundtrack’s success in the music charts speaks to how well it works not only for the film, but as an overall work on its own.
As impressive as various elements are, the film does hit a bit of a snag when it comes to pacing in the latter stages. After a first half that benefits from a fluid approach and a more contained timeline, the film’s three-quarter stage slows down unnecessarily, stretching out a chapter with similar themes and beats while we await what may come. It’s not too much of a detraction, mostly thanks to our stars, but it does point to a tighter script edit needed in a few moments.
It’s a story that’s been told a number of times before, and quite well it should be noted, so kudos to Cooper and co. for how they have adapted it. A Star is Born is driven by an undeniable level of heart and two fantastic leads with chemistry in spades, ensuring you are well and truly moved by the time that final stirring track is delivered. If this is any indication, Cooper has a promising directing career ahead indeed, and for Gaga, acting award recognition beckons.