Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut of “A Star is Born” has been hands-down the most anticipated film of the year. The trailer, released months ago featuring a makeup-free Lady Gaga and Cooper’s perfectly aged country rock star appearance, made it impossible not to be.
I was 14 when the last remake of “A Star is Born” was released. It was 1976. It was my idol Barbara Streisand. It was the sexy, scruffy, drug-addicted, alcoholic rock-star du jour, played by Kris Kristofferson.
It was the third remake of a story about the rise and fall of fame, denial, alcoholism and heartache, a story about how personal demons can lead to self-destruction and how love can or can’t always conquer all.
I recently had a flashback to my cinematic youth with the film’s recent re-release on Netflix. I smiled the entire time. It was fun to watch, a campy, yet relaxing break in the day.
Although not entirely perfect, Cooper’s version of the story is more than an escape. I found myself hooked on the film from the start.
Who cares about a repeated story line. It’s Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
Actually, the entire cast is a pleasure to watch, especially Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle.
The opening of the film lures you in by the sexy live country rock concert close-up of Jackson Maine, played by Cooper, playing a guitar and singing to an energetic crowd of thousands of his fans. It literally gave me chills and a smile.
We first meet Ally, played by Gaga, on her phone in a bathroom stall at the restaurant where she works as a waitress.
We hear a glimpse of her beautiful voice echoing as she walks down the corridor back to work.
It’s clear from the start that Jackson and Ally have demons that will either be released and set free or tragically unresolved.
Whether by drugs and alcohol or feeling unworthy of their own personal talents and ambitions, each are self-destructive behaviors in their own right.
The film isn’t just about the rise, fall and destruction of an aging rock star addict, nor is it about the discovery of hidden talent.
For me, the film is about honoring who we are and the unique qualities we can bring to the world. Ups and downs are a part of it. It’s our responsibility to work toward our capabilities without letting our fear stop us.
After her restaurant gig, Ally sings and performs to sensual perfection “La Vie En Rose” at an illustrious drag queen club. After his concert, the drug and alcohol-induced Maine, in a limo with his driver, visit the club for another needed drink. Blown away by Ally’s voice, he approaches her.
Later that night, Jackson encourages the unsure Ally in a market parking lot where she belts out a song, part of which she wrote on the spot. The beauty of every song performed live during shooting — especially this scene — are the film’s finest moments.
Cooper’s directorial debut is as gorgeous as he is, inside and out. As talented and respected supporting actors appear on screen — even for just the few significant moments — viewers can feel the chemistry, trust and respect between them. Cooper has immense talent as an actor and it’s clear his rigorous training as a singer and musician for the role paid off.
Throughout the film viewers are up close and personal with the natural and effortless dialogue and mostly natural light created by cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
Whether or not she has mastered her acting technique yet, Gaga is most believable as Ally. Her emotional and passionate singing holds us captive. Together with Cooper, she will no doubt garner an Oscar for the song “Shallow,” if not more on the impressive “A Star is Born” soundtrack.
Unlike Gaga herself, the makeup-free Ally epitomizes a character who is afraid to let herself shine. For many of us, allowing ourselves to shine is challenging. We might face bumps along the way that try to stifle our truth.
One tragic scene choice made by Cooper left me feeling slightly irritated. He teased us a few times by way of glimpses of a previous “A Star is Born” version, then presents something entirely different. I needed a minute to process my disappointment, but I later understood why Cooper chose to make that statement.
Cooper’s choice is merely a reflection of where we are today. The harsh, lonely, self-destructive reality for some is so much to bear, a tragically profound statement is sadly left in the end.
Enjoy the amazing music. And don’t forget to bring a tissue or two.