‘A Star Is Born’ is a story that has now been passed on since 1937 and remade at least five times over an 81 year span. Yet, the story itself is as old as music. A famous boy meets a girl. They fall in love. The boy helps the girl find her voice. She becomes a star, but that stardom comes with a price. If you have not seen this story before then you have likely been hiding under a rock somewhere. So, why do we need to see it again? What makes this version special? There are two answers to that question. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
Lady Gaga might have been a pop star for quite some time, but in this film a movie star is truly born. She delivers all of the vocals, dancing, and showmanship that she was hired for, but it’s the subtle beauties of her performance that are remarkable. Her eyes carry the audience through every discovery. Her lips deliver every word of wonder and concern for the changing world around her. And even her nose becomes a symbol for the love that transports her to another world. It’s a fully embodied performance, that will likely land her an Oscar nomination.
Bradley Cooper is even better as the aging rockstar, Jackson Maine. He delivers a true transformation. His voice is scruffier than usual. His cadence is unique and often slurred by a character who’s alcoholism defines him as much as his music. His singing and guitar playing is real and provide an authentic feel to the unforgettable musical performances. And the pain and loving wonder that wash across his eyes is the stuff other actors dream they could have the opportunity to show the world. Not to mention the fact that he directed this film as his directorial debut and the handheld style he chose to bring to this story is infectious. This truly is one of the best directorial debuts of all time.
Then there’s what the two of these actors do together. Which is what really makes this movie so magical. We all know about the importance and rarity of movie chemistry. Even the best love stories can feel a bit cold. These two actors defy that at every step. Their chemistry sets the screen on fire and the audience will be fanning the flames as they navigate from one brilliantly staged scene to the next. Whether the moments are big or very intimate, watching these actors play off each other is a genuine pleasure. And that’s before you count the musical contribution they give to this film. Much of the music came from their minds and they perform it wonderfully. You won’t soon forget most of it.
You throw in some wonderful writing, editing, and one of the best performances of Sam Elliott’s career, and you have a story that we’ve seen a million times becoming one of the best films of the year. So, if you think you have seen this story, you probably have. But not this way and not with these actors. What Cooper has direct here is a thing of beauty. And to miss the experience of this film would be a affront to filmmaking. Don’t miss this unforgettable musical experience.