Elec­tric and shat­ter­ingly pow­er­ful

Deccan Chronicle - - MOVIES -

It’s the same story, told over and over. All any artiste can of­fer this world is how they see those 12 notes. That’s it.” — A Star Is

Born. Ev­ery once in a great while you ex­pe­ri­ence a movie mo­ment so beau­ti­ful and so ex­hil­a­rat­ing it truly does take your breath away and maybe even brings a tear to your eye.

In Bradley Cooper’s elec­tric and shat­ter­ingly pow­er­ful A

Star Is Born, such a mo­ment oc­curs rel­a­tively early. Cooper’s world-fa­mous and world-weary coun­try-rock star Jack­son Maine is play­ing to thou­sands of ador­ing fans. Stand­ing in the wings is Lady Gaga’s Ally, an un­known singer/song­writer who has re­cently cap­ti­vated Jack­son on mul­ti­ple lev­els. She is just here to watch.

To Ally’s sur­prise, Jack­son be­gins to per­form one of Ally’s songs. He beck­ons Ally to join him. Ally takes a deep breath, walks out there and be­gins to sing. As her voice soars to the heav­ens and back, just like that: A star is born.

Fine, that sounds sen­ti­men­tal and a lit­tle corny and very Hol­ly­wood — but one of the many won­der­ful sur­prises in A Star Is Born is how direc­tor/cowriter/lead­ing man Cooper strikes the per­fect bal­ance be­tween a show­biz fa­ble with emo­tional histri­on­ics and per­for­mance num­bers and a finely honed, in­ti­mate story with uni­ver­sal truths and ex­pe­ri­ences hardly unique to the en­ter­tain­ment world.

We’ve all known some­one who (like Jack­son Maine) has been blessed with tal­ent and suc­cess but con­tin­ues to be his own worst en­emy and might be beyond re­demp­tion. We’ve all known some­one who (like Ally) dreams big and has some­thing to say — but won­ders if any­one will ever truly lis­ten to her.

This is the fourth A Star Is Born, fol­low­ing the non-mu­si­cal orig­i­nal from 1937; the 1954 film with Judy Gar­land and James Ma­son, and the 1976 hit star­ring Bar­bra Streisand and Kris Kristof­fer­son. On pa­per (or I guess we should say on­line), this seems like a safe, main­stream ve­hi­cle for Cooper’s di­rec­to­rial de­but — but given Cooper has never per­formed mu­sic and Lady Gaga has never head­lined a movie, and if ei­ther or both failed mis­er­ably we’d be talk­ing Razz­ies in­stead of Os­cars, there’s ac­tu­ally some­thing bold and brave about tack­ling this ma­te­rial. They pulled it off and then some. Lady Gaga is a win­ning, nat­u­ral pres­ence, even in the scenes where she’s nowhere near a piano or a mi­cro­phone. Cooper’s gui­tar and growl­ing bari­tone vo­cal work is so solid, if some­one played you a Jack­son Maine song and you didn’t know it was ac­tu­ally the ac­tor Bradley Cooper, it’s quite pos­si­ble you’d be­lieve it was the work of a real vet­eran mu­sic star.

It all be­gins, as it al­most has to be­gin, with Jack­son meet­ing Ally by chance.

In search of a late-night bar, Jack­son stum­bles into a drag club just in time to see Lady Gaga’s Ally belt out an in­tox­i­cat­ing, show-stop­ping take on La Vie En Rose. (The fea­tured per­form­ers at the cabaret love Ally so much, they’re happy to cede a lit­tle stage time when­ever she stops by.) Jack­son is in­stantly en­chanted and in­trigued on a num­ber of lev­els. Ally can’t be­lieve the Jack­son Maine was out there in the au­di­ence, just sit­ting at the bar, when she per­formed. Now Jack­son wants to know if Ally would like to hang out. Um, yeah, she would. But the touch­ing man­ner in which the night plays out is an early in­di­ca­tion we’re in for some­thing spe­cial, even as it takes us through the ex­pected bit­ter­sweet stages.

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