A Star Is Born (2018)
Directed by: Bradley Cooper | 136 minutes | drama, music | Actors: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin, Marlon Williams, Brandi Carlile, Ron Rifkin, Barry Shabaka Henley, Michael D. Roberts, Michael Harney, Rebecca Field , Derek Kevin Jones, Willam Bell, Dennis Ton, Johs Wells, Greg Grunberg
When four versions of the same story are filmed in less than a century, you can speak of a healthy obsession. Because just think about it: ‘A Star is Born’, about a waitress who grows into a world star, but where her once famous partner slips further and further, was previously filmed in 1937, 1954 and 1976.
More than forty years later, actor Bradley Cooper thought it was time for a fourth version, in which Lady Gaga follows in the footsteps of Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland. Cooper took quite a risk by choosing a story for his directorial debut that had already been told in so many variations, but it succeeds brilliantly: the fourth version of ‘A Star is Born’ is successful in almost every way.
Oh boy, can he sing. During the opening minutes of ‘A Star is Born’ you wonder whether it is actually Bradley Cooper that we see (and above all: hear!) at work here. A resounding introduction to his character, the (still) popular artist Jack. But behind the scenes, a different picture quickly emerges: Jack turns out to be drinking and sniffing his way through life next to the stage, tired by the eternal pressure of being an artist. Until he sees the young Ally (Gaga) perform in a remote transvestite bar. Ally spends her days mostly as a waitress, using the bar to showcase some of her musical ambitions.
Jack immediately recognizes her talent and gives her the chance to sing with him at a big concert, obviously resulting in her big break. Meanwhile, the two secretly fall in love. But where her star is rising at lightning speed, his is whirling down like a leaf in the wind: Jack suffers from hearing problems and loses himself more and more in drink and drugs. In other words: encouraging rise and tragic fall in perfect harmony. Gaga (rightly) receives a lot of praise for her first major film role, but it is mainly Cooper who steals the show (in front and behind the scenes). Where Gaga’s Ally mainly follows the beaten track (the ordinary girl who grows into a world star), it is especially Cooper’s Jack who sticks: the destructive and at the same time melancholic of his character makes ‘A Star is Born’ just that little bit more than just another remake . The fact that the film is also Cooper’s directorial debut deserves nothing but praise: nowhere do you notice that a debutant is at the controls, and it makes curious about a possible sequel to Cooper’s directing career.
However, the acting of Lady Gaga should certainly not be underestimated. Although all the surprise about Gaga’s acting talent may be a bit lazy (Gaga already received a lot of praise and a Golden Globe in 2016 for her role in the television series ‘American Horror Story’), she does leave a crushing impression. Gaga is of course a pure-bred artist, and that comes in very handy for this role. Gaga makes Ally a completely believable character, both as an excellent singer who is swallowed by commercial monsters in the music world, and in her never-ending love for Jack.
Of course ‘A Star is Born’ sometimes gets a bit too sentimental (after all it remains an ultimate Hollywood story) and the story is sometimes a bit too coincidental, but it should certainly not spoil the fun. Partly due to the great soundtrack, ‘A Star is Born’ (despite the playing time that is just a bit too long) feels constantly swirling and moving.
The fact that the film is already a firm favorite for several Oscar nominations is not only due to Hollywood’s love for the story of ‘A Star is Born’; the film stands alone as a modern version of a classic. Don’t see yourself falling for the melancholy but oh so nice pitfall that ‘A Star is Born’ still remains more than eighty years after the first version.