Movie review | A Star is Born
Some stories find a pulse with every generation of moviegoer. A Star Is Born is such a story. First made in 1937, remade in 1954 and 1976 and now in 2018 with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga reinterpreting the lead roles as they play an alcoholic musician and an aspiring singer respectively.
A Star is Born is a story about love, mentoring, and honesty in art. It’s about self-destruction, ambition, heartbreak, addiction and sacrifice. Above all, it’s beautiful, moving cinema with passionate storytelling and a breakthrough performance by American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga.
Cooper, who also directs, plays Jackson Maine, a successful country singer drenched in booze and substance abuse. One night, a chance meeting with bar singer Ally (Lady Gaga) changes their lives irrevocably. The night, which starts in a bar where Jackson hears Ally sing live, continues to another bar and then, in the unlikely setting of an all-night supermarket’s car park, he hears Ally sing an original song.
He’s smitten and soon gives her a platform to showcase her music. In turn, she becomes his support every time he collapses in an intoxicated heap. Even as her career begins to skyrocket, demons from Jack’s past pull him further and further down.
Ally’s transformation from a waitress and bar singer into a pop star is the soul of this romantic drama, coupled with Jack’s desperate efforts to overcome his weaknesses and ailments. It’s a study, as well, of the other side of fame, especially in modern times when artistic integrity often capitulates to marketing pressures. This is conveyed by the conduct of music label executive and Ally’s manager Rez Gavron (Rafi Gavron). As Jack cautions Ally just before she is about to appear on a high profile show: “… you don’t worry about why they’re listening or how long they’re going to be listening for. You just tell them what you want to say.”
The soundtrack – with songs performed by Cooper and Gaga — gently and momentarily distracts you away from the impending tragedy.
Cooper places his camera at low angles and the actor drops his head down with weariness and intoxication. In a relatively sombre part, he conveys so much with looks and a smoky voice — whether he is falling in love, sharing the wisdom of his experience with Ally, bickering with his brother Bobby (Sam Elliott) or attempting to lift himself out of a dark, emotional pit. Gaga brings the right combination of incredible singing and genuine wonder at Ally’s transforming world.
Some scenes are amputated of their emotional punch and narrative logic, and yet the film runs at a 135-minutes. At the end, what remains is the image of Lady Gaga with all her vulnerability laid bare. Even in its fourth rendition, A Star is Born hits the right emotional highs.