I have been counting down the days to the opening of A Star is Born, teased by the alluring trailer which so well paints the image of an enticing music-meets-love story. With the trailer flashing scenes of the talented dreamboat Bradley Cooper, fashioned like the dingy, drunken country star I always found secretly charming, and the iconic Lady Gaga flawlessly belting the earworm ‘Shallow’, I knew that this was going to be the movie to look out for. I hyped myself up for a love story full of song and fun; when I hit the theater the weekend A Star Is Born opened, I had no idea that I was headed for a nearly perfect storytelling of love, passion, sacrifice, and disease.
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous country-rock star riddled with alcoholism and a deep dissatisfaction with his reality, happens upon a divey drag bar where he finds a quietly defeated singer/songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga) performing the famous La Vie En Rose. The passionate love story starts sweetly; an innocent, supermarket parking lot night of sharing secret songs and deep investigation of each other launches the star and the star-to-be into whirlwind partnership. They go on to fall in deep, wild love, Ally becoming Jackson’s touring partner and finding herself thrust into pop-stardom as Jackson slowly finds the limelight slipping away from him.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster you must settle into; the movie takes its time, finding precious moments to build your investment so that what seems like a melodramatic storyline actually ends up tenderly milking tears out of you by surprise. Bradley Cooper directs with care, taking into account the audience’s feelings, and sharing themes that could easily be triggering with caution and subtly. The gore of the movie is quiet enough that you feel safe to stay invested; a quality that could be easily overlooked when dealing with themes addressed in this film. Not only did he take care of his audience, he ensures that the moviegoers feel as though they are onstage with Jackson or Ally with every chance he gets. The concert scenes feel as epic as they must feel for a musician performing for thousands of people, including shots from the concert stages looking to the audience, the blur of the lights, the thousands of fans staring up at the stage, awaiting brilliance.
Beyond his specific and cinematic direction, Cooper gives an Oscar worthy performance in this film. His nuanced choices handle the trope of a country-rockstar drunk falling from stardom with integrity, bringing humanity to shine a harsh light on the dark realities of alcoholism. Gaga, making her acting debut in this film, meets his seasoned skills with a performance that allows us to see her underneath the sensationalized pop star she is known to be. Gaga is a true star in this film, using all of herself to fill a character that has a heavy load to lift. I had a touch of fear that this movie would be the classic, patriarchal “guy saves girl and makes her into something” story, but Cooper and Gaga’s natural chemistry show that Jackson and Ally are more than that. Gaga builds a strong female character that understands her own worth and also the worth of Jackson, who while sick with alcoholism, is still worthy of love and joy, despite what the rest of the world may feel. Early in the film Jackson states that while many people in the world are talented, the people that make it are those who have something to say and a way to say it. Both Gaga and Cooper clearly have something to say, and their performances show that they understand how to say it.
Lastly, the music in A Star Is Born is catchy enough to play on repeat for weeks after seeing the film. Not only is the music wonderfully fun, it also elevates the passion of these two characters to a spiritual level. The audience gets to hear how connected they are each time they sing together, and how grand their talent truly is. It is a testament to the actors that all the music numbers were filmed live; each performance flawlessly rooted in character and the spectacle of stardom. All the orchestration in the film were songs written by Jackson or Ally, with the occasional added tone that Jackson hears when performing, due to his failing hearing. The music brings the audience further into the behind the scenes nature of this movie, and therefore invests the audience deeper into the story of Jackson and Ally.
A Star is Born is a hit not to be missed. The artistry with which this story was delivered was undeniably brilliant, and Lady Gaga’s debut performance combined with Cooper’s direction and acting ensure that their filmmaking careers are only just beginning.
A Star Is Born was written by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters, Directed by Bradley Cooper, and Starring Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, and Anthony Ramos.
Copyright © 2018 Paola Sanchez Abreu