Remake hits all the right notes
Musical drama A Star is Born gets a fourth cinematic treatment and arrives on the crest of a glowing reviews and Oscar buzz wave.
While my mum is a massive fan of the previous incarnation – the 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson – I am coming into this world of a musician on the decline helping a young singer and actress find fame blind having never seen any of the other flicks.
Perhaps that’s a good thing as I had nothing to compare this to and could only judge the film on its own merits – and A Star is Born 2018 makes for a gripping, superbly-acted experience.
Bradley Cooper stars as aging singer Jackson Maine, co-wrote the script with Eric Roth (Munich, Ali) and Will Fetters (The Lucky One) and, as if that wasn’t enough, also makes his directorial debut.
It’s a hell of a lot to take on but the 43-year-old proves more than up for the challenge, showing a sure hand behind the camera that defies his inexperience in the field.
One of the best decisions he made was to shoot musical performances during actual festivals Glastonbury and Coachella; this lends the sets credibility, realism and the type of raw, genuine crowd reactions that are nigh-onimpossible to replicate.
There’s a near-documentary feel to much of Cooper’s film-making which suits the story and subject matter extremely well.
Cooper has always been a talented actor and has cleverly moved away from the comedy trappings he risked being typecast in following his Hangover trilogy and Wedding Crashers turns.
It’s hard to say this is his finest performance yet as his work in Silver Linings Playbook and American Sniper was also top-notch but Cooper strongly convinces as a troubled singer trying desperately to cling on to his career while falling for his protégé.
However, this remake’s true revelation is Lady Gaga as untapped talent Ally. The reallife musician has turned her hand to acting before with cameos in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Machete Kills and recurring roles in TV’s American Horror Story but this is her big coming-out-party.
She earns her place at the acting table with a fantastic performance rife with soul, passion, frustration and heart; and her chemistry with Cooper, both on the microphone and off-stage, is off-the-charts.
What prevents A Star is Born from reaching number one, though, is familiar story beats seen in true-life and fictional musical biopics like Walk the Line and Crazy Heart.
Cooper could also have done with getting a firmer grip on his editing team as his flick drags for much of its second half.
Quibbles are minor, then, and overall this remake hits the high notes and creates new superstars behind and in front of the camera in Cooper and Gaga.
On-song Lady Gaga and Cooper make for a fine double act