STARRING: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, Michael Harney and Rafi Gavron
A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Seasoned musician Jackson Maine discovers-and falls in love with-struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer – until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
A Star Is Born focuses on Jackson Maine, a big-time country singer that is privately suffering alcohol and drug addiction. As he tries to to get more booze after a concert, he goes into a drag bar and is mesmerised by the performance of waitress and singer Ally. After they spend the night in each others company, Jackson invites Ally to his next show, bringing her up on stage to perform her song and her life changes forever. As her begins to take off, Jackson’s begins to dwindle down as his addictions spiral out of control. This marks the fourth feature focusing on the love story of one’s fame launching whilst the others is at their peak/slowly declining. The first one that came out in 1937 starred Janet Gaynor and Frederic March, where it focused on an actress/actor dynamic. The 1954 version brought in the aspiring singer angle starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The last one, released in 1976, starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
For me the film is at its strongest in the first thirty-five to forty minutes. We witness Jackson Maine at the height of his music career, playing to big crowds at a few shows and while we witness the alcoholism that comes with his music ability, we see the vulnerability of the character, especially when he by chance, walking into a drag bar for more booze, hears the voice of Ally. We see the two just talk about themselves, particularly Ally opening up about the difficulties she’s had in pursuing a music career. It’s through here that we witness the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, it’s authentic and when it comes to her being blindsided to come on stage and sing her song with him and it is a goosebumps moment of them performing Shallows. The scene that sets up Ally’s rocket launch to fame is well directed by Cooper and edited by Jay Cassidy. With the direction, cinematography and the performances amongst the cast, it’s easy to see why many think that this film will pick up multiple nominations come award season. Bradley Cooper must have a stash of NZT-48 lying about somewhere because not only is he a really good actor, the man can director and also for good measure sing a tune that it can definitely be plausible that he could be a legit country singer. While Cooper gets so show his versatility between acting, singing and directing, this is definitely Lady Gaga’s film, as the focus is mostly on her from the middle act onwards as the film looks at her gaining momentum within the industry and how new artists are manufactured by the record label, management etc. In terms of supporting cast members, I reckon Sam Elliott will have a shot of getting nominated in the Supporting Actor categories, as he has a few scenes that might strike close to home for some as an older brother who looks after his younger, alcoholic brother and has all but given up hope that Jackson can ever get over his addiction. (Sidenote: I did smile when there was a very, tiny, Undercover Brother reunion between Dave Chappelle and Eddie Griffin in the film)
As much as I enjoyed the films first act, once we get past the Shallows performance, the film just took a dive for me. I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Ally being moulded into this pop superstar angle, particularly one song that she sings that sky rockets in popularity, much to Jackson’s bemusement. I believe it was portrayed of Jackson being jealous of her new found fame and her no longer needed him in order to get to where she is, but it felt more of a criticism of her ‘selling-out’ to what her manager and label were telling her to do. That is, of course, he tells her this whilst hammered and goes too far. The song is tonally different to what else she’s done so even when she admits that she wrote it, initially I felt out of character. Then as I thought further about it, Ally wasn’t really much of a character in the film. I’m pretty sure Ally’s last name is never mentioned in the film and outside of her stating that her nose stopped her previously from getting into the music business and being a songwriter, we don’t know much about her as a person at all or one brief moment of self-doubt in the middle act, just what her perspective is in the later half of the film. That pivotal (verbal) fight scene is a startling moment about that (stupid) song that she claims to have written, yet we never see her perspective on it. The film will have a love it or hate it final act, basically if you buy into the relationship between Jackson and Ally then it might hit you emotionally, whereas if you don’t you definitely won’t buy into the final scene.
The film has a great first thirty-five to forty minutes, then slowly blows off in the wind once it gets to the end credits. As much as I wasn’t much of a fan of the screenplay, there’s no denying that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga acted the shit out of this film. Despite your thoughts on the film, be it positive or negative, that Shallows scene will forever be inserted into your brain. 6/10