Warning! Mild spoilers ahead.
I have seen this film twice now, and both times the audience left the cinema in a stunned, somber silence, it’s a strange atmosphere to be a part of, in my experience, it’s also an atmosphere that one rarely comes across. This is a sign of a special film, and I am pleased to say that Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is a triumph.
A Star is Born is the fourth remake of what is now a classic tale, which means, in terms of the narrative, it is admittedly nothing groundbreaking. At it’s core, the film is a standard “rise and fall” story, centered around the two protagonists, Jackson Maine, an established and famous singer, (Bradley Cooper) and Ally, (Lady Gaga) a down on her luck waitress, with a bigger dream, but resigned and accepting of her current situation.
But it really doesn’t matter whether or not you know the tale, or if you can predict what is coming… Because the chemistry between these two characters sucks you in, I have to say, the relationship between these two is one of the most raw and compelling that I have ever seen on screen. The opening act follows the same beat as any cliche Hollywood movie, with Jackson falling for Ally the second he lays eyes on her, yet it doesn’t feel cliche or forced whatsoever, it feels very real and believable, the audience is invested in them early on, which I really liked. Some films get bogged down by delivering an unnecessary build-up towards moments that we already know I going to happen, I appreciated that A Star is Born wastes no time in introducing Jackson and Ally, and also establishing their relationship.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but what follows in the first half of the film sees Ally grasping an opportunity and subsequently rising through the ranks in the music industry, meanwhile, Jackson’s career begins to stagnate, not helped by his growing dependency on alcohol and drugs, we see him on a constant downward spiral as the film progresses, whilst Ally just continues to go from success to success. The juxtaposition of these situations makes for interesting viewing, and it leads to some very tense, awkward moments as both characters go through a vast wave of emotions, bringing the best and the worst out of each other. There is one scene in particular when a drunk Jackson berates Ally while she is having a bath, it made for very uneasy viewing, you really feel for Ally, but equally, you can understand Jackson and his fears/anger that Ally is losing herself to the commercialized music industry, as evil as he is being, you can empathize with him, it’s a very powerful moment.
The second act does drag somewhat, and there are moments where I feel things could have been stream-line and/or cut to reduce the quite lengthy runtime. But the last 20 minutes are some of the most gripping and heart-wrenching I have seen in years. Again, I won’t go into detail, as I would rather people find out for themselves, but I will say I saw/heard a lot of people crying during the final scene, and I don’t blame them one bit.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are both sensational in this film, I was surprised by how well Lady Gaga could act, and I was equally surprised at how well Bradley Cooper can sing. Their performances deserve recognition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them get an Oscar nomination for their work. Bradley Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the amount of work he has done on this film, but ultimately, it’s main success is going to come from the chemistry between the two leads, they both compliment each other in a multitude of ways, and it really is quite hard now to imagine a better pairing for this story.
Although it is not a musical, there are some fantastic tracks in this film, which I have already proudly added to my iTunes. “Shallow”, “Maybe It’s Time” and “Black Eyes” are my personal favorites, but there is something here for everyone. If you don’t get a chance to watch the film, I at least implore you to head over to YouTube and have a listen to some of the music, because it really is fantastic.
A Star is Born will make you feel every emotion. You’ll feel happy, you’ll feel angry, you’ll feel empowered, you’ll feel uneasy, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry… It’s an emotional rollercoaster but it never feels overbearing. The film has a stellar cast with some brilliant performances, but ultimately, you’ll find yourself hooked by the two leads and the journey that they go on together. There are a few pacing issues, and it probably could have been a bit shorter without losing any of its impact, but in the grand scheme of things, this is completely forgiveable and it is a minor issue. In terms of directorial debuts, I don’t think they’ll come much better than this. Bradley Cooper should be immensely proud of this film.
I intentionally have not gone into too much detail, because if I want to send any message to my readers, it’s that you should get to the cinema and experience this for yourself. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year and it is going to resonate with me for a long time to come, and I’m sure it will have a similar impact on you too.
I give A Star is Born an 9/10.