“Music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes…”
Bradley Cooper stars with Lady Gaga in his feature film directorial debut A Star is Born. This music-filled romantic drama is the fourth remake of the original 1937 film of the same name, which was loosely based on the 1932 film titled What Price Hollywood?
It’s a very personal, authentic journey through the lives of musicians with a deeply honest approach well supported by the strong filmmaking, live singing performances, and talented cast who take their already strong careers to new heights as Lady Gaga makes an impressive feature film debut in a leading role.
Both leads really step up to the mic with amazing talent and great chemistry with authentic, convincing performances as individual musicians Jackson Maine and Ally Campana. Their strong individual talents and personas bolster their core relationship that develops when they begin to collaborate as musicians and fall in love with each other.
Lady Gaga impresses early with song performances including “La Vie en rose” and an impromptu song during the opening title sequence. Cooper’s beginning performance of “Black Eyes” reveals a lot in a little time. When these two tour de forces join on “Shallow” the film reaches a high, emotional level that brings good chills up the spine.
I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now
Cooper gets Ally out of her comfort box in a charming, yet forceful way as she breaks through on stage with genuine joy and lives out the moments she reflected on and dreamed of for so long.
Cooper and Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) co-wrote many of the songs with producer Mark Ronson who discovered Amy Winehouse and has collaborated with Bruno Mars. The 19-track motion pictures soundtrack is a must-have.
Cooper takes admirable risks including a memorable exterior sequence outside a supermarket with one of the best, most natural conversations every filmed that foreshadows some future stellar moments in the film. “I think you might be a songwriter. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody. But I’m not very good at keeping secrets,” Jackson says to Ally. Filmmakers could have stretched that sequence even longer as Jackson further encourages Ally to “dig deep and tell the truth.” It shows how sharing your life and having a heart to share with others creates some great life victories worth celebrating.
Cooper also wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, which covers tough subjects like alcoholism, drug addiction, grief, self-worth, and tinnitus. The two-hour and 16 minute running time ebbs and flows perfectly without drawing out the drama too much as filmmakers create an incredibly emotional experience.
Words hurt more than anything here. For example, Jackson imparts wisdom to Ally when he shares how people would talk to him as though he’s not a real person. Ally’s home life obligations and slightly manipulative father keeps holding her back. Each character has specific challenges to overcome and specific talents to share, but the tactics and decision-making behind these actions become paramount to each character’s arc and fate.
Sam Elliott impresses as always as Jackson’s half-brother/manager Bobby while an almost unrecognizable Andrew Dice Clay almost equals Elliott’s performance as Ally’s dad Lorenzo. Anthony Ramos co-stars as Ally’s close friend and Rafi Gavron portrays a music producer. Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) & Promise of the Real appear as Jackson’s band while several cameo roles include Alec Baldwin, Halsey, Brandi Carlile, Marlon Williams, and Don Roy King.
Comedian Dave Chappelle portrays one of Jackson’s close friends and provides helpful guidance and support at a key point in Jackson’s life. “You looked like you,” he frankly tells Jackson after observing him with Ally.
The memorable movie music is a step above other films like Country Strong reaching the same high level as Crazy Heart and Once. This film’s songs “Maybe It’s Time,” “Always Remember Us This Way” and “I’ll Never Love Again” tug on the heart strings without manipulation.
This quality film melds music performance, family life, triumphant talent showcases, romance, personal life struggles, and stardom into one package worthy of multiple viewings.
A Star is Born earns a solid recommendation (*** out of four stars) and is rated R for language, alcohol/drug use, and nudity.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler