Every so often, a movie about the behind-the-scenes of a particular lifestyle captures a moment in time perfectly.
In Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star Is Born,” the director and leading man tells a story of both the allure and danger of fame. The film is the fourth remake of the same plot — a fading male superstar of the music world finds a young female singer with amazing talent and makes her into a star while falling in love with her. The romantic arc provides an explosive and haunting backdrop for a tragedy of epic proportion.
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a bonafide rockstar whose personal demons fuel his downward spiral. There is not a day that goes by where Maine is not drinking a gin and tonic or popping a prescription pill just to avoid dealing with the very real internal issues that stem from his abusive childhood.
The film starts with Maine stumbling into a drag bar simply looking for a drink to keep his post-show haze going. This is where he stumbles into Ally (Lady Gaga) for the first time. Maine hears Ally sing “La Vie En Rose,” and he’s absolutely blown away.
From there, the standard romantic courtship formula that movies follow is thrown away. There is genuine chemistry between Cooper and Gaga on screen, and while their duets are mind-blowingly good, their interactions are the most beautiful part of the film. The way in which long-term relationships initially develop is masterfully captured.
Instead of simply saying “I don’t think your nose is big,” Maine outlines Ally’s nose with his finger and says “Your nose is beautiful.” This becomes their recurring romantic tick throughout the remainder of the movie. Maine falls in love with Ally’s genuineness in just one night.
In addition to the superb chemistry, the film also masterfully juggles the struggles of fame through two characters trending in different directions. Maine is dealing with the effects of years of fame and is a hard rocker until the end, but the singer just can’t give up his old ways because of the changing times. Ally, on the other hand, quickly jumps at the chance to hide her true self to gain the approval from the people she once despised.
The level of dedication from Cooper in the making of this film is nothing short of extraordinary. Basically known for always portraying a preppy jerk in films like “The Hangover” and “Wedding Crashers,” Cooper embodies everything that an old school rockstar stands for. The mannerisms of someone with substance issues down to him slurring entire scenes of dialogue are masterful character work. The director, leading man and co-writer of the film learned how to play guitar, sang his own songs and dramatically altered his voice into a gravelly tone that sounds far older than he looks.
The supporting cast has a memorable performance from Sam Elliot, who plays Jackson’s older brother and manager Bobby. Their relationship is always tense because of how difficult Jackson is to manage since he is a functioning addict. At the end of the third act, there is a true tear-jerking moment between the two where the brothers find peace.
The soundtrack features a wide range of genres including country rock, love duets, and modern pop music. The highlight is the song “Shallow,” the duet that is an abridged version of the plot.
This is a tried and true formula, however, Cooper’s dedication to craft, Gaga’s character development and the music ties it all together in a recipe for a truly memorable movie.