It’s been over 40 years since the 1976 version of A Star is Born hit cinema screens, starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand in the lead roles. And certainly, the question on everyone’s minds has been whether this 21st-century remake offers anything fresh and whether it delivers. The answer is simply, yes, it does. In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper delivers an utterly compelling and vibrant film, with plenty of soul-crushing emotional knockouts.
A Star Is Born tells the story of musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) who discovers and falls in love with struggling singer, songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga). She has just given up on her dream of pursuing a big career as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as her career takes flight, the personal side of their relationship begins to break down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
The film kicks off with an absolutely explosive musical number – Black Eyes, an extremely energic and rock-orientated tune, which showcases Cooper’s impressive vocals and guitar skills, as well as his songwriting abilities; interestingly enough, the song was actually written by Cooper himself, as were many others in the film’s soundtrack. Thus, immediately we are introduced to Cooper’s Rockstar capabilities, as well as his character Jackson, a musician who can still pack out sold-out stadiums and festivals, whilst enticing crowds with his on-stage presence. Yet there is something that becomes very apparent as soon as he exits the stage. There is a roughness and sense of fatigue layered onto this character, for we feel that he is simply worn-out and that perhaps, his best days are behind him.
It is not long after that he comes across Gaga’s Ally performing in a drag bar, where he is instantly captivated by her talent and persona. Undeniably, not just in her first on-stage performance, but also in her subsequent ones, the ‘real’ Gaga does come through, for it can be hard to grasp the sheer confidence that Ally demonstrates, especially when performing in front of huge crowds. Fortunately, Gaga’s performance distracts us away from this most of the time. There is not only a lightness to her acting but also a naturalism and a sense of authenticity. Dare I even say, her performance is believable? It honestly becomes a pleasure to watch her, and as her world changes beyond the point of comprehension, we can relate to her rush of emotions, which she brilliantly conveys. The chemistry between her and Cooper is very much organic, for nothing feels forced, the dialogue and interaction all flows naturally. It becomes impossible to watch their musical numbers together without a smile, they’re that good! The soundtrack is a rather varied one too, with a range of country, rock, ballad, and pop tunes., this is just one of the ways in which the film makes itself relevant.
Cooper is a master of his craft on-screen and off, his performance as a man beaten by his past and the struggle with alcohol and drug addiction is effortless and astonishing. His direction is precise and controlled, and every scene looks and carries itself in a stylish, yet believable and authentic manner. Arguably, the film’s originality comes through in its commentary upon the artificiality of the current entertainment industry and how artists can often be pressured and cornered into situations that prove detrimental. It explores the issues of coping with stardom and fame, as well as the mental and psychological effects.
Overall, the film is undeniably one for the ages and one of the year’s best films. Come next year’s awards season, it is sure to triumph one way or another.