A Star Is Born is a project so filled with risks, I didn’t think they would pay off.
Not only is actor Bradley Cooper shouldering the role of a director for the first time, he has to sing for the first time in the film.
Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a country music star whose career is slowly going downhill as he depends on alcohol more and more to silence his inner demons. The dedicated actor reportedly spent three years learning how to sing and play the guitar for the role!
Pop superstar Lady Gaga, on the other hand, who plays waitress and aspiring singer Ally, has the music portion down pat. But this is Gaga’s first time acting in a movie.
What’s more, A Star Is Born, a remake of the 1937 film of the same name, has been remade multiple times – in 1954 (starring Judy Garland and James Mason) and in 1976 (starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson).
Cooper not only has a legacy to preserve, he has to bring something new to the table.
Simply put, the film took numerous leaps of faith. But surprisingly, it landed right on target each time. The film opens with Jackson, or simply Jack, getting off the stage and draining what alcohol is left from the bottle in his car. Already inebriated, he tells his driver to stop by a bar for more.
There, he chances upon the talented Ally performing La Vie En Rose, and is immediately drawn to her. The two bond over their love for music, and before long, love blooms.
During a performance, Jack shines the spotlight on Ally, inviting her on stage to perform a duet.
As Ally begins her ascent in the music industry, it is the start of Jack’s descent, as his alcohol addiction gets the better of him.
What truly makes this remake worth watching is the strong, palpable chemistry between the leads. Cooper and Gaga may seem like an unlikely pairing at first, but these actors successfully strip off what preconceived notions you may have of them and give birth to entirely new characters.
With music as a connection, Jack and Ally form a pure, organic relationship. There are genuine, heartbreaking emotional moments between them.
Cooper definitely had his work cut out for him portraying a musician. But his hard work paid off. Apparently no prerecordings or lip-syncing were allowed during the film’s singing portions, and yet Cooper’s gravelly voice sounds every bit the seasoned, effortless singer the role demands.
Gaga, too, is impressive in her role as Ally. Of course, she has flexed her acting muscles before in the small screen, winning the Golden Globes for Best Actress in a mini-series or TV movie for American Horror Story: Hotel in 2016.
But as her role in AHS was in the same vein as the eccentric persona she exudes in her music, this is the first time we’re seeing Gaga in a more “normal” role.
The film called for more nuanced performances, and Gaga delivers. She effectively portrays both wide-eyed dreamer Ally’s spunk and vulnerability, proving she could have a career in acting, if she wanted one.
Finally, the original music here is absolutely gorgeous and elevates the film further. The melodies are beautiful and the lyrics, deep and meaningful.
In particular, the acoustic guitar-driven, Shallow, a song the couple writes on the first day they meet, and closing ballad I’ll Never Again, performed to hair-raising effect by Gaga, is a magnificent expression of the joys and pains of the characters’ journeys.
With an unconventional yet effective pairing, solid acting performances and moving original music, A Star Is Born has been successfully reborn.
A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos