A STAR IS BORN
Director: Bradley Cooper
Screenwriters: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters, based on the 1954 version by Moss Hart, the 1976 version by John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion and Frank Pierson, and the original story by William Wellman and Robert Carson.
Andrew Dice Clay
Runtime: 136 mins.
Australian release date: 18 October 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 8 October 2018.
A Star Is Born has had a number of incarnations - including a Bollywood one, Aashiqui aka English Romance in 2013 - and this current iteration joins the list; its predecessors include versions featuring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976, Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, and Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in 1937. This time around, the love-story centres on Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and it’s also Cooper’s directorial debut, which is quite a bold choice for an initial effort. Being such a well-known title and having such illustrious forebears, comparisons will be inevitable. So, how does it compare? Happily, it stands up pretty well and it makes you realise (if you didn’t know already) just how incredibly talented Gaga is, especially as it’s her feature film debut too. It also shows that Cooper has pretty fine musical ability himself and it feels like the duo made an authentic connection. There’s real chemistry in their pairing.
Desperate for a drink, an ageing, alcoholic, country-rock singer, Jackson ‘Jack’ Maine (Bradley Cooper), winds up in a drag bar on the drive to yet another gig and spots Ally (Lady Gaga), an occasional singer in the nightclub, singing La Vie en Rose. Ally, like many struggling artists, has to earn her bread and butter waitressing while hoping that one day her luck may change and, on this fateful day, it does. Jack immediately picks up on her natural talent and offers to help her. It turns out that their meeting alters both their lives and they embark on a relationship that becomes both personal and, for a time, professional. Soon though, Ally is encouraged to branch out on her own and Jack’s life begins to fall apart as the result of Ally’s new-found fame. As her star rises, his wanes and his drinking becomes more and more excessive until it destroys his long-term partnership with his older brother Bobby (Sam Elliot), who’s his confidante and manager.
All sound familiar? It should, because this version of A Star Is Born doesn’t stray too far from the others, but it is a refreshing, modern-day take on the story that’s believable in its examination of fame and its impact on relationships. The pairing of Gaga and Cooper is the main attraction and, as their love affair develops and then starts to crack under pressure, it features heart-breaking performances from both actor/singers. The many musical numbers are a treat and Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’ (as she affectionately refers to her fans) won’t be disappointed. Cooper is a highly impressive guitarist and vocalist in his own right and could make a recording career for himself if he ever tired of acting. He’s very good. His direction of the film is assured, too. It opens strongly and, unlikely as Jack and Ally’s meeting is, you have no trouble running with it. Where it lags somewhat is in the mid-section, before it picks up again for the denouement. At 136 minutes, it would have benefitted from a trim and a little tightening of the dialogue.
A Star Is Born will bring back memories of its most recent predecessor for many, the one starring Streisand and Kristofferson, but Cooper has successfully put his own stamp on the story. The casting of Lady Gaga will surely pay off in spades, as the 1976 film did with Streisand, and it is bound to be a hit at the box office. It may even garner a nomination or two at the up-coming Academy Awards, not least for the music (all the songs were performed live, not lip-synched), and the soundtrack’s lead single, Shallow.