Director/Star Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” will likely go down in history as one of the greatest remakes of all time. Cooper doesn’t try so much to remake a story that’s been already remade, but rethink it for a modern culture. In the end “A Star is Born” excels because it doesn’t lose sight of what it wants to convey as an epic romance, and a tale about identity, and stardom. It’s a beautiful and often soul shattering drama that Cooper directs with immense humility and is able to derive wonderful performances all around.
Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a jaded and drunken super star musician who is looking for a way to savor the remaining days of his career. As he’s experienced the peak of his fame, he grapples with alcoholism, drug abuse, and hearing loss which begins to affect his performances. While on a bender one night, he ends up at a Gay club where he discovers aspiring singer Ally, a young Italian waitress who hasn’t given up on her dream of becoming a star. When Jackson falls for her, he also agrees to fuel her career. But as Ally rockets in to fame and acclaim as a musician, Jackson’s relationship with her begins to fall apart due to his inability to conquer his personal demons and substance abuse.
Lady Gaga gives one of the most riveting performances of 2018, and I say that as someone who never really liked her as an artist or singer. I was genuinely shocked at how natural she was on screen, and how nuanced and layered she plays the character Ally. Gaga presents such an emphatic and engaging performance, playing this woman who has high hopes, and is facing the fact she might just be a waitress for the rest of her life. When we meet her, she’s subjected to a boss who hassles her daily, and has to confront a blue collar, middle aged father who consistently harps on what he could have been. When she meets Jackson it’s a wonderful meeting of fate, as Jackson, whose heard it all, is genuinely moved by Ally’s passion.
That culminates in to a whirlwind romance that consumes a larger part of the film’s narrative, and pulls the audience in as a brilliant look at how two people can be so perfect for one another, but also be so terrible for each other. Cooper is mesmerizing in the role as Jackson, a man who has accepted his fate as a celebrity as some sort of imprisonment, and gains a new luster with Ally. Cooper successfully paints “A Star is Born” as a tale of caution, and how fame can often go hand in hand with loss of identity. As we watch Ally’s meteoric rise, we witness her desperate grasp to maintain her drive and her sense of passion, all of which ironically is embodied by Jackson. The question inevitably becomes can Ally survive and remain driven without Jackson? Is she with him for love or is he merely a crutch?
“A Star is Born” mixes so many themes and sub-genres in to a remake that sucked me in, with compelling, often genuine moments between Lady Gaga and Cooper. Cooper also derives brilliant supporting turns from Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, the latter of whom surprises with a very down to Earth turn as Ally’s well meaning albeit overbearing father. “A Star is Born” grabbed me from the very first musical number, as both Cooper and Gaga offer some beautiful musical performances, including Gaga whose performances of “La Vie En Rose” and the closing number are absolutely moving. “A Star is Born” is an absolutely stellar movie going experience, filled with tears, amazing music, and a sincerely heartbreaking tale of love and loss.
The new release from Warner comes with a DVD Copy, and a Digital Copy. The supplements include “The Road to Stardom” a thirty minute documentary about the making of the film. This includes behind the scenes material, on set footage, scenes from the cast’s table read, Gaga’s screen test, raw footage, and the entire cast discussing the deeper elements of the film. There’s the Jam Sessions and Rarities, which includes rehearsals and various jam sessions, all of which were perfected for the film’s performance scenes and musical numbers. Next, there are music videos for the four big songs in the film, and finally there’s a special feature which allows the viewer to watch all of the musical moments from the film in one shot.