A Star is Born, for those not keeping score, is the fourth film with that title to make it to the big screen in the last eighty one years. General consensus has always been that the 1954 version, which starred Judy Garland and James Mason as the star-crossed show business couple, is the best of this batch. That is at least until the present day when the early word of mouth started trickling in suggesting that the latest version of this tale was the best of the batch.
While I won’t go that far in my praise for this newest take on the well-worn tale, I will go as far as to say that it is indeed an impressive accomplishment. Especially considering that this is Bradley Cooper’s first time at bat as a director. To breathe life into such an old chestnut of a story that forms the basis of the film is an unenviable task to be sure. That task has been carried out quite well and much better than one might suspect.
The plot, co-written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) along with Cooper and Will Fetters, is pretty faithful to the versions we’ve seen previously. There are a few tweaks here and there to give it a more contemporary feel but they work.
For instance, when the two lead characters meet it’s in a drag bar this time around. Other choices of a similar nature feel organic and it’s a credit to the writing team for making an effort to give the film a fresh texture.
Cooper’s character is Jackson Maine. His star is flying high when the film opens, selling out arenas wherever he goes with his brand of folk rock. When he chances to meet struggling singer, Ally (Lady Gaga), things change for the both of them. Of course, she ascends as he descends but it isn’t necessarily the destination that provides the interest but, rather, the journey that proves most satisfying. Sam Elliot and Andrew Dice Clay (yes, you read the right) provide excellent support in their respective roles as Jackson’s brother and Ally’s father.
What really carries this film along way is the incredible onscreen chemistry of the two leads. Cooper, the director, also is terrific as the troubled megastar, Jackson. Still, if one were pressed to cite the film’s strongest component one need look no further than the lead female performance from pop star Lady Gaga. The entire production is elevated to heavenly heights when she’s on screen and her performance makes it easier to overlook the shortcomings of the picture which are mainly attributed to a weaker second half in comparison to the spectacular opening.
Even so, A Star is Born provides us with some great melodrama of an old school variety that’s sorely needed these days. It’s more than worth your time.
A Star Is Born opens everywhere this week.
Image: Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born
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