A grungy, shiny re­birth

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Culture - By Da­mon Smith

As­tar is re­born in the third re­make of the rags-to-riches fairy tale, which orig­i­nally starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The 21st-cen­tury twin­kling doesn’t em­anate from pop chameleon turned award-win­ning ac­tor Lady Gaga, who is un­de­ni­ably lu­mi­nous as a naive and vul­ner­a­ble in­genue rock­et­ing into the mu­si­cal fir­ma­ment.

No, the film’s retina-sear­ing ball of light is Bradley Cooper as her griz­zled men­tor and lover.

The Philadel­phia-born lead­ing man nes­tles con­fi­dently into the direc­tor’s chair for his de­but fea­ture but he truly daz­zles in front of the cam­era, drenched in the sweat and self-loathing of a booze­soaked show­man, who is stag­ger­ing to­wards the precipice of obliv­ion.

In her catchy 2011 dance­floor an­them, Gaga pro­claimed she was on the edge of glory. Here, her hand­some co-star is per­pet­u­ally on the verge of self-in­flicted an­ni­hi­la­tion, be­holden to the demons of al­co­hol and drugs, which pro­vide his vet­eran singer-song­writer with tem­po­rary refuge from the tin­ni­tus that will even­tu­ally deny him the plea­sure of play­ing to sta­dia filled with ador­ing fans.

Cooper rocks and rolls in ex­hil­a­rat­ing con­cert se­quences and per­forms his char­ac­ter’s sig­na­ture tracks with grav­el­lyvoiced aplomb in­clud­ing a duet with Gaga on the swoon­some bal­lad Shal­low.

Both ac­tors are se­ri­ous con­tenders for Os­car con­sid­er­a­tion next year.

Jack­son Maine (Cooper) con­tin­ues to milk suc­cess with the sup­port of his brother and man­ager, Bobby (Sam El­liott), who re­sents the way his younger sib­ling puts their old man on a pedestal.

“All dad ever did for you was make you his drink­ing buddy,” snarls Bobby.

Fol­low­ing a con­cert, Jack­son heads to the near­est bar where he is stunned by a soar­ing ren­di­tion of Edith Piaf by wait­ress Ally (Gaga).

They spend the night talk­ing and flirt­ing, and Ally dis­closes that she lives at home with her pro­tec­tive fa­ther (An­drew Dice Clay).

Po­ten­tial ra­di­ates from ev­ery pore of Ally and Jack­son in­vites her to join him at his next gig where their on-stage per­for­mance goes vi­ral and at­tracts the at­ten­tion of cut-throat man­ager Rez (Rafi Gavron).

As Rez moulds Ally’s des­tiny and pro­pels her to­wards su­per­star­dom, Jack­son’s in­flu­ence wanes and fis­sures ap­pear in the re­la­tion­ship.

“The cater­pil­lar be­comes a but­ter­fly,” ob­serves Bobby with a know­ing yet rue­ful smile.

A Star Is Born is far grungier and sex­ier than the 1954 and 1976 re­makes head­lin­ing Judy Gar­land and Bar­bra Streisand, although the script cred­ited to Eric Roth, Will Fet­ters and Cooper dances to the same heart-break­ing melody as pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions.

Screen chem­istry be­tween the two leads is molten and you can al­most feel the heat rip­pling off the screen in breath­lessly chore­ographed bed­room scenes. El­liott strums up pow­er­ful emo­tions in sup­port along­side Lon­don­born Gavron, who won’t al­low a crazy lit­tle thing called love to dis­tract his show­girl-in-the-mak­ing from seiz­ing suc­cess with both hands.

One snort of fame and you’re help­lessly ad­dicted.

Lady Gaga as Ally and An­thony Ramos as Ra­mon in A Star is Born

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