Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” is heartbreakingly beautiful


A screenshot from the trailer for “A Star Is Born.” (Hayley Solomon/Amherst Wire)

Runtime: 2 hr 17 min

Rating: A

The reputation of film remakes often deters people from seeing the film. This is the fourth time the story, “A Star is Born” has been done —  in 1937, in 1954 (starring Judy Garland and James Mason), and in 1976 (starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand). With Streisand’s remake getting a low 35 percent critic rating on “Rotten Tomatoes,” people were hesitant about the film being done a fourth time.

This time was different, as it exceeded all expectations. Passionate, emotional and spectacular are all words that describe this timeless tale. But with an extraordinary soundtrack and cast, Academy Award nominees Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga make this remake one that will be remembered for the current generation of viewers. Let’s just say it completely lives up to the hype.

It tells the story of two star-crossed lovers on two completely different paths: one a famous performer with many inner demons, and the other a struggling performer who has given up on her dreams. Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine who suddenly finds hope in life after discovering Ally Campana, played by Lady Gaga, performing at an L.A. drag club.

Jackson has just ended a show when he stops in a drag club for, of course, a drink, where he sees Ally perform. Ally is a waitress by day and a struggling performer by night. Watching Ally perform, Jackson’s world turns upside down, and everything changes for both of them. They spend the night together as Ally sings Jackson one of her original songs. He then invites her to his next show and has her perform that very song on stage with him, and the rest is history. Jackson feels that he has lost the passion for performing, as there is a bottle of booze and a line of blow always ready to go. When he hears Ally sing, he suddenly finds a purpose. While their love story unfolds, Jackson’s inner demons remain, causing heartbreak for both of them. Their love story is so tragically beautiful, leaving you in tears until the very end.

With Cooper as director, one of the best decisions he made in this film was casting Gaga as one of the leads. Gaga completely shines in her first major film role, and will undoubtedly get praise when Oscar season comes around. You have never seen Gaga like this before. She is completely stripped down from the makeup, wigs and costumes that she is known for, making her performance even more authentic and genuine. You almost feel like you are in the movie with her and going through this emotional journey to stardom alongside her.

She has said in many interviews that she originally wanted to be an actress, telling Stephen Colbert she never pursued that dream because she was “bad at auditioning.” We all know she has a singing voice that can bring the house down — which makes her performance even more compelling — but she is also an incredible actress. One would have never guessed as her acting seems like a raw talent, and in the film, she is just rolling with the punches. Her emotional performance is iconic. 

Cooper, making his directing debut with this film, clearly carries the film both behind and in front of the camera. He completely transforms for this role, as he said he took voice lessons to change the tone of his voice. Did I mention he is one hell of a singer? It seems like those voice lessons clearly paid off. No one saw this coming from Cooper, only proving that he can really do anything.

The actor-director gives a powerful performance. He plays a guy who was in the right place at the right time, who turns to alcohol and pills every chance he gets, and who has a complicated relationship with his brother Bobby (Sam Elliott). His character seems to have two choices: “let the old ways die” and help Ally pursue her career, or not seek help for his drug abuse. You feel as though you are fighting this battle with him, feeling everything that he is feeling. His story is tragic, but an important one to tell.

Cooper does justice for this fourth remake, staying true to the storyline but putting his own twist on it, and even recording the songs live at music festivals including Coachella and Glastonbury. In one of the earliest scenes, the two are sitting outside a supermarket while Gaga sings to Cooper. That song ended up becoming the hit song “Shallow,” which is hands down one of the best original songs for a film in years.

While these two performances are extremely strong, they are even stronger together. Their chemistry is incredibly powerful in every scene, and their singing together makes their performances stand out even more. Cooper and Gaga even collaborated on many of the songs on the album, including “Black Eyes” and the emotional “I’ll Never Love Again.”

Although at certain points in the film it feels like the storyline drags on, “A Star Is Born” is so authentic and moving that you will want to see it more than once (and you’ll be listening to the soundtrack on repeat for the next few months). There is no doubt this will be a strong contender for Oscar nominations this year. Cooper truly emphasizes the artist’s point of view, rather than the audience’s, and he puts detail into every single part of this film, delivering an electrifying movie that is full of love and song.

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