Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle
Screenplay: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
136 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.
A Star is Born has been made several times over, but what makes each incarnation so special is how they capture the time period they are set in. With a constantly evolving music landscape, A Star is Born is more of a time capsule film, so does it matter that there’s a new one? With first-time director Bradley Cooper at the helm, yes, a resounding yes.
Cooper stars as Jackson Mayne, an alcoholic rockstar who discovers Ally (Lady Gaga, Machete Kills, TV’s American Horror Story), a waitress/singer/songwriter who he helps get into the public eye. As their attraction blossoms into full-blown love affair, Ally finds herself propelled to stardom as Jackson discovers his star slowly fading.
The plot of A Star is Born is nothing new, and there’s the tendency with this film to find itself hitting all the bullet points of the narrative, but it boils down to strong character development in the writing, some truly unforgettable performances and incredible chemistry, and some memorable music. Cooper’s direction is strong for a first outing (though I wouldn’t put him in the conversation of best of the year), but it is his role as Jackson that is worthy of awards consideration. He continues to slip into a role and disappear behind a character, something he’s done several times in recent years.
Lady Gaga’s performance as Ally is very well done too. There’s some criticism about her essentially playing herself, but I don’t buy it. I find that she is accessing parts of herself but the chemistry cannot be understated and the way she folds her own background into the role is wonderful.
Cooper’s primary strengths as a director are where his passion lies, usually with character and story and less so with the technical side of things. He is particularly adept at using the music in the film to influence character and story, and there’s some nice foreshadowing in the film’s many musical numbers.
Overall, A Star is Born isn’t revelatory in its story, but the romance between the leads is so beautiful and heartbreaking that it stands as one of the best films of the year. Bradley Cooper has proven himself yet again with the added directing and co-writing, and Gaga adds another strength to her skill set. This is a terrific piece of cinema.
-Kyle A. Goethe
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