The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE -


Of course, we don’t “need” an­other ver­sion of A Star is Born. We don’t ac­tu­ally “need” beer, sausages, kit­tens or love. But the lat­est un­veil­ing of the old warhorse – the fifth, by one mea­sure – is so per­sua­sive it takes on the flavour of ne­ces­sity. Why would any­one choose to live in a world with­out it?

Lean­ing into Cooper like a bird in­ves­ti­gat­ing promis­ing move­ments among the un­der­growth, Gaga is ex­otic when she’s or­di­nary and rooted when she’s fan­tas­tic.

Bradley the ac­tor is in top gear. Bradley the direc­tor is a less con­spic­u­ous pres­ence, but no­body could ques­tion his pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

Never mind that Jack­son looks to have had a ca­reer more suited to some­one at least 20 years his se­nior – the All­man Broth­ers per­haps – the rock songs still sound au­then­ti­cally aged. Gaga’s pop tunes are equally con­vinc­ing.

A Star is Born of­fers ev­i­dence that there is still a corner of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try that be­longs to cin­ema alone. This de­light­ful melo­drama would make no sense as a TV se­ries. It will play well enough when it ar­rives as the big Christ­mas telly event of 2019 (if there still are such things), but it is made for a big screen, big sound and the com­fort­ing sor­row of the com­mu­nal sob.


As in­evitably hap­pens in sto­ries like these, a down­ward turn must be taken. It’s the wis­dom of this finely made movie (what an aus­pi­cious de­but for Cooper the direc­tor – and thank good­ness Clint East­wood didn’t make this, as once planned) that it knows its own graceful weight, that it cal­i­brates it­self with such bal­ance.

I’m tempted to say that, yeah, sure, there is a lit­tle cheesi­ness to be found in the movie. Be­cause that’s how we’re sup­posed to love movies like this, with caveats and qual­i­fi­ca­tions that show we’re aware that it’s all a lit­tle silly.

But you know what? I thought barely any­thing in A Star Is Born had an ac­tual ring of hok­i­ness or schmaltz. What I think is so of­ten mis­taken for that stuff is big, sin­cere, high-drama feel­ing, which the film has in abun­dance. I love the rhythm and rum­ble of this old story told well, so richly scored with song.

So many dif­fer­ent stars are born-or at least reimag­ined-in Star Is Born that you leave with the lin­ger­ing glow of a con­stel­la­tion still daz­zling in your eyes. If that’s a corny thing to say, so be it. I’m far too swept away by this lovely and sat­is­fy­ing movie to care.


For maybe an hour or so, I was con­vinced that maybe Cooper had made the great, soul­ful Hol­ly­wood en­ter­tain­ment some have al­ready called it.

I wish A Star Is Born pre­served the laid­back, nat­u­ral­is­tic vibe of its first half, or that it some­how sus­tained the stir­ring high it reaches on stage with Ally and Jack­son. All ver­sions of this story reach a cer­tain nec­es­sary come­down, as the rise por­tion of the evening ends and the fall be­gins.

But in Cooper’s film, it re­ally is down­hill from Shal­low. Part of the prob­lem, too, is that this Star Is Born is built on a false and rather tired mu­si­cal di­chotomy, posit­ing Jack­son’s generic Amer­i­cana rock as some kind of in­her­ently worth­while al­ter­na­tive to pop music – a turn that asks Gaga to knock out a syn­thetic ra­dio smash much flat­ter than her own ac­tual pop smashes, and us to buy that a young artist of Ally’s ev­i­dent in­tegrity would fall in line be­hind the corny cliché of a Bri­tish A&R blood­sucker (Rafi Gavron).

Still, Gaga keeps the film’s heart pump­ing. She’s down-to-earth and ra­di­ant – in other words, ev­ery bit as good as ev­ery­one has been say­ing. The movie isn’t, but the best mo­ments echo loudly.


Cooper has made a jaggedly ten­der love story that is never over-the-top, an op­er­atic movie that dares to be quiet. Ally has some­thing that Jack­son recog­nises be­cause he used to have it too: the song­writer’s pas­sion, the drive to take your own story and turn it into a juke­box poem. They have a great con­ver­sa­tion about her Ro­man nose – which plays, know­ingly, off the prej­u­dices of the music in­dus­try that Gaga con­fronted on her way up. Ally thinks her nose is too big (or so she’s been told), but Jack­son thinks it’s beau­ti­ful – and, of course, he’s right.

Does Jack­son want Ally to be­come a star? Sort of. He’s the one who makes it pos­si­ble, but af­ter a video of their live duet goes vi­ral, she’s ap­proached af­ter a show by a rock man­ager, Dez (Rafi Gavron), who gives her the I-can-make-you-a-star rap. Im­me­di­ately, we know where this is go­ing: to a place Jack­son is not go­ing to like. The man­ager rep­re­sents the dis­so­lu­tion of Jack­son’s sway over Ally, some­thing the movie views in con­tem­po­rary fem­i­nist terms. In his dis­so­lute-rocker way, Jack­son is grounded in the old male es­tab­lish­ment, a place where Ally can be a “girl singer”. What he doesn’t re­alise is that she’s go­ing to em­brace star­dom on her own terms, and they aren’t his.


Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born.

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