Every week it feels like another remake is making its way to a theater near you. It’s become increasingly common to build on an established fan base. What’s different about A Star Is Born is that even though this film has been made before, each time it is told a little differently. It was first brought to the screen in the late 1930s and has been remade twice sine then. Growing up my mom referred to the 1976 version as the pinnacle of love stories. But sadly what happens so often with these retellings of the same story is they fail to live up to the expectation or success of the previous film. Thankfully this is not the case here.
A Star Is Born is a simple story. It’s the story of a young star rising to the top while another crashes down. It’s also a musical beautifully telling the story of two artists who fall in love and bring out the best parts of each other. After his concert, Jack (Bradley Cooper), a successful musician, goes searching for a drink. He stumbles into a bar near by and is captivated by the talented woman onstage named Ally (Lady Gaga). Jack is infatuated with her but Ally refuses to let herself to get swept up in a drunken man’s compliments. Despite her protests Ally joins Jack onstage at his next concert and their performance goes viral. Soon she is given more opportunities than she ever thought possible. But while Ally is climbing to the top, Jack’s alcoholism is pushing him in a downward spiral.
A large part of what makes this film work is its stars. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga give award worthy performances. Not only are you rooting for the two of them together but as individuals as well. We see these characters at their most vulnerable times in their relationship and Cooper and Gaga were perfectly cast. Cooper not only starred in the film but also debuted as a director and co-wrote a powerful screenplay alongside Eric Roth and Will Fetters. The film was a strong directorial debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what types of films he chooses in the future. As if all of this wasn’t enough he learned to play the guitar and completely changed the tone of voice for this role. His performance as Jack is one of the strongest that I’ve seen from him. I struggled to see the line where Bradley Cooper ended and his character began. Jack is a very sympathetic character; he is so dependent on his addiction to drugs and alcohol that he can barely take care of himself properly. Before he meets Ally his face is void of meaning, he is just going through the motions. Afterwards there is a clear nuance in his entire body that was missing prior. He finds hope and strength in Ally’s love and Cooper’s performance does an excellent job of showing that. It may be a small thing but his attention to the smallest of details is part of what makes for such a compelling performance.
After winning a Golden Globe a few years ago people have started to recognize Lady Gaga as more than a wildly successful pop star. When she was cast there was a lot of anticipation for her film debut. Whereas I knew what to expect from Bradley Cooper’s performance, I was unsure of how Gaga would come across onscreen. She solidified herself as a triple threat and gives one of the best performances this year. She was charismatic, interesting and human in a way that most people might not associate with Lady Gaga the pop artist. There were so many tight shots on each of the character’s faces and this was such a smart decision because so much of Gaga’s performance came from her eyes. There was almost a sense of innocence and real tenderness in them. The strongest element in her performance was her chemistry with Bradley Cooper. The two of them have a magnetic connection. With every montage of their relationship I wanted more. I couldn’t help but be moved. Their chemistry was so compelling, their affection felt authentic, and it was incredibly fun watching them together. The best example of this comes during the multiple scenes of them performing together onstage. There was sense of trust in each other that provided an intimacy there that was so evident. There’s no better way to describe theses moments than simply magical.
The other part that works in A Star Is Born is the music. It wasn’t a musical in the sense that there are no characters breaking out in large dance numbers, however the music was still incredibly important to the overall story. The music truly pulls you into their relationship and helps you become invested. It’s a beautiful backdrop as they are falling in love. Because there were several scenes where Jack and Ally were writing their music together you felt a part of the song’s history. Therefore you’re excited to hear the final result when the music plays. When it does play, it’s a fantastic soundtrack. There are a variety of beautiful love songs, catchy pop songs and ones that you’ll want to rock out to in your car. Lady Gaga has never sounded better and Bradley Cooper sounds like he’s a seasoned veteran.
About halfway through A Star Is Born, I realized that I’m going to enjoy this film for many years to come. It might just be my favorite film so far this year. Everything came together and resulted in a film that is truly great. This was a retelling that was well worth making.
5 out of 5 stars
Directors: Bradley Cooper Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper (screenplay by), Will Fetters (screenplay by) Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot Release Date: October 5th Rated: R Runtime: 2 hours and 15 minutes