Reel Reviews | A Star is Born

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Four-time Oscar winner and first-time director Bradley Cooper tries his hand in creating a fourth version of a classic tale, A Star Is Born.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a rock superstar saddled with demons. One night after playing an arena show in Los Angeles, Maine stumbles upon a bar where he can satiate his alcohol demon. The fact that it is a drag bar does not faze him as long as he can get his drinks. It is there that he sees the struggling waitress, Ally (Lady Gaga) perform. Maine is immediately smitten by the young ingenue with an incredible ability to perform. After the show ends, Maine spends the rest of the night and early morning with slightly uncomfortable Ally getting to know her and a song that she has been writing. The next day, Maine sends his limo driver (Jon Favreau) to her home and take her to his next concert. Jackson coaxes Ally on stage to sing his arrangement of her song and blows the crowd away.

Co-written and directed by Bradley Cooper, this fourth remake of A Star Is Born is full of firsts. The movie is the first directorial effort for Cooper, the first leading role in a feature film for Lady Gaga and the first soundtrack album with Cooper performing. Despite all these firsts, Born is a marvel.

Cooper stated that he has been a lover of film for a long time and he has been waiting for the right story to tell as a director. Cooper shows a prowess in his direction that rivals the great storytellers of current day. His framing is excellent. From the background billboards to the pulsating Dolby driven, decibel shattering rock soundtrack, each shot and every scene has meaning and purpose. Cooper’s attention to detail is stellar. He creates an atmosphere that is so immersive, real and intense that the audience gets the feeling that they are watching a rock documentary and not a scripted movie. All the actors are placed in situations where they seem to be just living and not acting.

      SEE ALSO | A STAR IS BORN by Tim Gordon

Lady Gaga is barely recognizable as an actress in this film. Gaga’s Ally is a simple, unsure and shy girl with aspirations of fame that grows into a confident and strong-willed yet loyal superstar. Lady Gaga’s first on-screen performance as a singer and an actress shows a range as great as, if not, dare it be said, greater than the outstanding performance of Barbra Streisand who had performed in nine movies by the time she got to the role of Esther Hoffman in the 1976 version.

Bradley Cooper can sing, too. He has a great singing voice in this film but the most outstanding part about the voice is that it is not Bradley Cooper singing, it’s Jackson Maine. Cooper has created a character voice for Jackson Maine and that character voice is the one we hear singing. The tenor, drawl and rasp all match. Again, it’s attention to detail. The soundtrack is amazing and with the vocal performances of Cooper and Gaga, well worth purchasing even if only Gaga’s La Vie En Rose is the only song on it.

The supporting cast are just as awesome. Sam Elliot, Dave Chappelle and even Andrew “Dice” Clay turn in efforts that not only support but provide backstories that have meaning and contribute to the character development of Jackson and Ally.

Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse, A Star Is Born is the first shot across the bow in what promises to be a wide, open Oscar field that may also perform extremely well in the box office.

Grade: A