A STAR IS BORN

Lady and the re­vamp…

Total Film - - Big Screen -

There aren’t many sto­ries that merit three re­makes, but A Star Is Born might just be one. A tale of fame, ad­dic­tion, cre­ativ­ity and more, it cer­tainly chimes with our celebrity-ob­sessed times. And there prob­a­bly isn’t a bet­ter cast­ing choice than Lady Gaga to play Ally, a wait­ress who rises to fame with the help of a boozy rock mu­si­cian on the slide. The ‘Poker Face’ singer knows more than most how to take on the mu­sic in­dus­try and win.

Gaga isn’t en­tirely new to screen act­ing: her CV in­cludes (brief) ap­pear­ances in Robert Ro­driguez’s Ma­chete Kills and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, as well as a re­cur­ring role on Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story. All the same,

she’s got sev­eral pairs of big shoes to fill: Janet Gaynor (the 1937 ASIB), Judy Gar­land (1954) and Bar­bra Streisand are an­other mat­ter (1976). Yet from the mo­ment we see Ally on the phone in a toi­let cu­bi­cle, scream­ing at a soon-tobe-ex, it’s clear she’s got the chops. Gaga’s star may well have been born al­ready, but she’s sen­sa­tional here.

Along­side her all the way is Bradley Cooper, mak­ing his di­rec­to­rial de­but. He plays Jack­son Maine, a rock ’n’ roll star who, when we first join him, is pop­ping pills on stage be­fore play­ing. Af­ter a chance en­counter with Ally in a drag-queen bar, where she’s sing­ing on stage, he’s cap­ti­vated. “I don’t sing my own songs… I just don’t feel com­fort­able,” she says, but be­fore long, she joins him on stage in a mo­ment that’ll give you goose­bumps.

One of the film’s big sell­ing points is its ap­proach to the mu­si­cal num­bers. Real crowds, real venues, with no CGI in sight; the film even gives us Ally and Jack­son play­ing on stage at Coachella and Glas­ton­bury. Cooper – ev­ery bit as ac­com­plished as Gaga in the mu­si­cal se­quences – in­jects the same doc-like re­al­ism into a do­mes­tic sto­ry­line cen­tred on Ally’s re­la­tion­ship with her fa­ther (An­drew Dice Clay) and his cronies.

As Ally and Jack­son fall in love, they hit the tour­ing cir­cuit; be­fore long, she’s be­ing courted by slick record exec Rez (Rafi Gavron) to cut a de­but al­bum. Jack­son, mean­while, is on the wane. Af­ter fall­ing out with his tour man­ager (Sam El­liott), his sub­stance (ab)use wors­ens – a de­pen­dency that will ul­ti­mately be ex­posed in the most hu­mil­i­at­ing of ways.

True, Cooper’s film could do with a tighter edit, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond act, where it has a ten­dency to drag. But all told, A Star Is Born is a big achieve­ment: raw, ro­man­tic, tragic and tu­mul­tuous. Like Jack­son says to Ally, “hav­ing some­thing to say” is what counts. Fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal songs penned by Willie Nel­son’s son, Lukas, this is one film that sings from the heart. James Mot­tram

THE VER­DICT

Su­perb. Gaga and Cooper de­liver Os­car-wor­thy turns in a re­make that hits the high notes.

She was grate­ful and ev­ery­thing, but re­ally wished he’d just wash his hair.

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