Despite this being the fourth film based on the same story idea, Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born is the best of them all.
I’m sure there will be a lot of reviewers voicing amazement that Lady Gaga can act – she got raves for her work on American Horror Story so get over that.
Amazement at Bradley Cooper’s singing and playing can be understood – no one (including himself, apparently) could have expected that. But he did work for a year-and-a-half to achieve those skills (plus, it would seem he has more than a wee bit of talent at both…).
As I noted above, A Star Is Born is a familiar story: a music star who has reached (and passed) his peak discovers a young woman with such talent that, as he spirals downward, she rises to heights that even surpass his.
In this case, the past his prime superstar is electric country singer Jackson Maine (Cooper) and the talent he discovers – singing at a drag bar – is Ally (Lady Gaga).
He’s just looking for a bar – any bar that serves booze – but winds up thoroughly enjoying himself, while making a connection with her.
Not long afterward, he plays one of Ally’s songs at a gig and she overcomes her insecurities to join him. Cooper’s smoky, gravelly tones meld with Lady Gaga’s purer voice in an unexpectedly lovely way.
While we’ve seen three previous takes on this story, Cooper’s take makes use of details to complement the actual music.
Maine has a dog, Charlie – played by Cooper’s dog, Charlie – and there is a sequence where Charlie lies down in front of a garage door that will tear your heart out; Ally’s father (Andrew Dice Clay) is very protective of his little girl; Maine’s brother, Bobby (Sam Elliott, The Hero, Justified), raised him while protecting him from their alcoholic dad’s meanness, and Ally’s best friend, Ramon (Anthony Ramos, She’s Gotta Have It, Will & Grace), is the best best friend you could ever hope for.
Another huge detail is that all the music was performed live in front those audiences – there’s no editing jiggery-pokery going on there. The camera is quick to show the players and the crowds at the same time – and Cooper (who also co-wrote some the music) makes sure that we see everyone that plays an instrument in shots that clearly show them doing so (there are a more than a couple nice shots that take us from a full body shot of Cooper then dolly in so we can see him playing).
From Maine’s first, thunderous song (thunder country, anyone?), to Ally’s finally reaching the heights, A Star Is Born is a wonderful film.
Considering the number of times we’ve seen this story, it’s a very pleasant surprise (to me, at least) that it doesn’t appear to have any serious flaws (or even minor ones).
Bradley Cooper is now a director watch.
As for potential awards, A Star Is Born is so mesmerizing that I can see it winning a few Oscars® – actor, supporting actor, actress, music, and song to name a few.
Final Grade: A+