A Star is Born - 2018 dir. Bradley Cooper
By Darren Cunningham – Bond Library film reviewer
THE fourth remake of this rags to riches tale, is an updated millennial rendition about a talented singer from humble beginnings performing at a backstreet drag club, to hitting the big time and superseding the star of her singer-songwriter lover who discovers her - only to find his own star fading is fast. A smash hit version made in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, (only second to Stallone’s now classic Rocky), Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are the new star-crossed lovers, who get to support, laugh, love and cry with each other.
This take on A Star Is Born, gives two meaty roles for both Cooper and Gaga. Cooper, who also directs, gets to exercise his own vocal talents. As for Gaga, this is her initial claim to fame regardless. This film is also Lady Gaga’s first big screen role which nabbed her a Best Actress Academy Award™ nomination. One doesn’t have to be a fan of her music to enjoy her here and she appears at her most natural and radiant as Ally - she is very endearing. It is understandable why Cooper’s character of Jack is drawn to her. He wants someone to love and has plenty to give, he just channels it in wayward directions.
Bradley Cooper gives a strong performance as Jack and is perhaps even better than Gaga. In fact, he makes much of it about Jack’s decline, rather than just place most of the focus on Ally’s rise, as was with the Streisand 70’s version. He is very believable as the once famous, but now washed-out singer who can’t get over his addiction to alcohol, drugs and not to mention other personal hang-ups. Despite his fame and wealth, he does come across as self-pitying, but rather than show us a superficial facade of a spoiled, entitled and whining jerk, he makes his Jack layered and sympathetic. He is desperately reaching out yet spiralling out of control. To compound issues, he also suffers from tinnitus and this hearing loss also affects his composure, co-ordination and ability to perform professionally. Jack is a tragic character and Cooper plays him with compassion, understanding and warmth.
Visually, I didn’t find the film anything too exceptional, but it was solidly presented, and Cooper perhaps didn’t want to distract too much from the human element and emotional connection between Jack and Ally in the narrative. It also gives some nice insight into the music industry and live concert performances. I do find the Streisand version grittier and more electric, even if very much a time capsule imbedded in 70’s culture and style, with amazing concert footage and a more realistic sense of on-screen audience worship for these artists. Lady Gaga is a decent singer, but she doesn’t quite have the dynamic screen presence, or range of Streisand, but for today’s audiences, she was an ideal choice for the role.
This star might not shine as brightly as it could have, however it has conceived many of the right emotional chords with viewers.