“A Star Is Born”: A Tale of Two Artists
A Star is Born’s fourth incarnation brings revelations from both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut. A Star is a worthy successor to La La Land, both as an awards-favourite and as a crowd-puller. But unlike Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical, Cooper’s is far more musically immersive and doesn’t pander by softening up in order to become a four-quadrant hit.
Lady Gaga can act, which comes as no surprise to the five people who saw her Golden Globe-winning turn in American Horror Story: Hotel. By abandoning the theatrics – ten-inch platform heels and that meat dress – that have defined her music career, she introduces us to the fizzy and down-to-earth Ally. Gaga mesmerises and charms as the talented singer-songwriter, who has been told she “don’t look so great” to become a bankable star. Her onscreen presence is bolstered by letting her voice run loose and loud. Her powerful vocal abilities are put to good use on tracks like ‘Shallow’ and ‘Always Remember Us This Way’.
Exposing new talents doesn’t stop with Gaga: Bradley Cooper can sing. As Jackson Maine, Cooper seduces the audience with a richly textured voice, seemingly weathered from both years of performing, and drugs and alcohol-related issues. Such vices intensify when they’re used as a coping mechanism for Jackson’s onset of tinnitus, which would take a considerable toll on any musician.
Cooper also directed, produced and co-wrote A Star Is Born. Although not as seamless as other actors-turned-directors’ debuts – such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out or Paul Dano’s Wildlife – Cooper shows great flare and ambition in constructing such a momentous film.
Regardless of how extraordinary Gaga and Cooper are as individuals, A Star Is Born is a tale of two artists. There is a natural chemistry between Jackson and Ally from the first time they meet in a drag bar (anywhere with alcohol is Jackson’s type of place). Both have flaws; both bring out the best in each other. Jackson provides Ally with the confidence to sing the songs she writes, but Ally returns something invaluable. She gives him a new affection and purpose to live for.
A Star’s storyline certainly feels like well-trodden ground. An artist in decline stumbles upon a new muse and together they create spectacular music. But Jackson becomes jealous when a slimy music producer – who is, of course, British – wants to help Ally become a popstar, thus altering the beauty and style that Jackson first fell for. This is the fourth time A Star Is Born has been made. The first was released in 1937, and then remade again in 1954 and 1976. Each version acts as a time capsule of sorts for its generation. The new one skilfully incorporates the burdens of modern fame into its fabric, something its lead cast members certainly know a lot about.
Although the principal storyline is familiar, the subtleties occurring in the background give Cooper’s version depth. Most important is Jackson’s fraught relationship with his older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott, superbly), who was also once an aspiring musician. Moreover, a biographical element seeps out of the film when Ally talks about how she’s been rejected because of her looks. It’s hard to not see a young Lady Gaga peering out towards the audience, speaking very much of her earliest experiences in the music industry.
A Star Is Born lives up to exorbitant expectations and features a gorgeous original soundtrack. Live singing supports the energetic atmosphere of the on-screen performances. Hardly a hot take anymore, considering all the praise this film has already received, but expect many awards and Oscar nominations for this romantic spectacle.
A Star Is Born is in cinemas now.
This article was originally published at beaveronline.co.uk.