Unbeknownst to many, this fall’s A Star is Born happens to be the third remake of the 1937 film, remade previously in 1954 and 1976. While each version has a unique spin on the story, the main plot about a relationship drama tangled in musical showbiz remains the same, and yet, I have a feeling that first-time director Bradley Cooper managed to capture something magical with his co-star Lady Gaga in her first starring role.
Cooper leads the cast as Jackson Maine, a country singer-songwriter who frequently performs at sold out concerts and more frequently intoxicates himself. One night, out of booze, he stops at a nightclub where he encounters Ally, performing La Vie en Rose as part of the night’s show and dazzling the crowd with her voice. Maine, impressed with her talent visits her backstage immediately sparking off the night that quickly bonds them as musicians and lovers.
The very next day, he flies her over to his next concert but Ally discovers that he has also arranged for her to perform one of her own songs on stage. Pushed by Maine and her best friend Ramon, she hesitantly approaches the mic and unleashes a vocal performance (Shallow) that skyrockets her to stardom and relationship overnight. As their romance blooms, Maine takes her to visit his home in Arizona where he discovers that his manager/brother has sold it off. Furious at his betrayal, Maine punches Bobby, soon after which he quits. Ally is soon approached by a record producer who offers her a contract. Maine is visibly disturbed yet supports her decision to go along with it but at the same time realizes his career is heading towards a downward spiral. As the drinking intensifies, Maine’s health declines and personal demons take over and not only threaten to derail Ally’s career but also rupture their beautiful bubble.
The film does a spectacular job recycling a melodramatic story which at its foundation is a human story about the dynamics of love, addiction and the music industry. Cooper and Gaga’s amazing chemistry is the bedrock upon which performances are built, easy to watch, believable and tear-jerking, both leads deliver fantastically. The rest of the cast elicit strong performances, especially Sam Elliot as Bobby. Predictable and a tad too long towards the end, the film still keeps you hooked with its performance driven storytelling while at the same time it delivers on the technical edge. Jump cuts and dramatic transitions serve to trim unnecessary bits and pieces while maintaining the flow of the narrative.
I was totally blown away by Cooper’s ability to handle both roles in front and behind the screen, the way in which concerts and music was covered visually was impressive and no one can expect any less when Matthew Libatique (Darren Aronofsky’s cinematographer) handles the camera. The film’s best moments are during its first and third act which highlight the blooming romance and Jack’s career hitting rock bottom. The rise of Ally’s stardom against Maine’s fading time in the limelight articulate the vacillating nature of showbiz and how fame and success affects human emotions and the dynamic of relationships.
Overall, A Star is Born is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and I would definitely label it as an early Oscar contender – after all the other remakes each won Academy Awards. Cooper’s rise as a director lives upto its hype with the fresh reviews the film has garnered on its festival run. But certainly, Lady Gaga steals the show on screen and elevates this film into a whole other level. Personally, I cannot wait till I see this again.
Courtesy of Akash SK