Hits the right note
IS THERE a movie that is more hyped up this year than A Star Is Born?
The third remake of a classic Hollywood flick, the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga film is an impressive spectacle that hits most of the emotional highs and lows audiences want from a movie that promises to take you on a melodramatic journey.
Not melodramatic in a bad way, melodramatic in that everything is heightened – the triumphs are soaring, the tragedies are crushing.
Musicals are not subtle beasts.
Is it perfect, the most amazing movie you’ll see this year?
No, but it is pretty great. Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a countryrock star who still commands adulation but whose star is on the wane after years of battling drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the hearing condition tinnitus.
Coming off a roaring gig, he goes to a bar where he sees Ally (Lady Gaga) performing a soulful rendition of Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose.
Ally is an aspiring singer who, despite her obvious talent, has been rejected by countless labels because she doesn’t have the right “look”.
Jack is immediately enchanted and while she’s initially hesitant, they bond over an evening – she singing her songs for him in a supermarket carpark, him magnetised by her presence.
By the next night, she’s on stage at his next concert, belting out the song she sang for him in the carpark, now fully arranged.
Their chemistry is palpable: Cooper and Gaga are clearly on the same wavelength and they’re able to have you invest in Ally and Jack’s relationship immediately.
Anyone who has seen any of the three previous versions starring Janet Gaynor (1937), Judy Garland (1954) and Barbra Streisand (1976) will no doubt remember how it ends.
But even for those who haven’t, it’s a familiar trajectory.
The idea is that there are only so many stars – one must move aside for another.
So the story isn’t just about Ally’s journey to the top of the charts and acclaim, it’s also about Jack’s descent and increasing irrelevance.
Telling the downfall story requires more finesse than A Star Is Born is able to manage – the Garland version does this very well and it’s inevitable that this version will always be compared to the ones before it.
Cooper’s performance as the sad and struggling Jack is brilliantly calibrated, and consistent throughout.
This movie seems more interested in his story, the one of the fading star, than it is in hers: a reversal of the Streisand and Garland versions.
His plunge, the alcoholism, is more convincing and nuanced than her meteoric rise.
While imperfect, A Star Is Born is a satisfying and emotionally evocative epic.
If only it had managed to maintain the intoxicating allure of its first hour.
EMOTIONAL FILM: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the third remake of Hollywood classic, A Star is Born.