A Star Is Born movie director: Bradley Cooper
A Star Is Born movie cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
A Star Is Born movie rating: 2.5 stars
In the fourth rendition of this story, about a rising star mentored by a self-destructing one, there is one crucial change. The latter role, of an alcohol and drug-addled ageing rock singer, is played by the man who is also the film’s producer, director and co-writer. The title may say what it does, but the film is as much about the death of a star as the rise of one.
And that is not a happy result. This film belongs to Lady Gaga, who outshines, outsparkles and, of course, outsings her way to a smashing film debut. Cooper seems to acknowledge that by giving her this platform, and yet not enough. And while it’s not great acting that is on display here, the dialogues are lame, the story predictable and frustratingly uni-dimensional, Lady Gaga sings her heart out, kicking the film to a jump start every time.
Jack Maine (Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) meet at a bar, which he stumbles into half-dazed on his way home from a concert, and where she is singing. He recognises her talent immediately, and sparks fly quickly. In what is the best part of the film, both the bruised Jack and the artifice-less Ally find company and comfort in each other. Lady Gaga is perhaps a little old to be playing the role of an ingenue, but the film’s strength is in letting us look past all that, like it intends. In what may be a comment on Lady Gaga’s own over-the-top persona, there is a scene where Jack strips off Ally’s make-up, beneath which she is literally unrecognisable.
As Jack starts taking Ally along on his tours and letting her sing, her talent is spotted by a record company executive. The film tantalisingly flirts with the idea of how Ally might now change into what Jack peeled off, but can never settle down to explore that, or anything else that follows. There is that plus Jack’s growing alcoholism, plus his tinnitus, plus his complicated relationship with father/brother, plus Ally’s own not-so-believable living arrangements with her father and his buddies, plus the whole artist-being-pure-to-her-art spiel, plus Jack’s jealousy at Ally leaving him far behind, with nothing that sticks. The previous versions of A Star is Born carried less of all that baggage.
In the process, that real connection which Cooper and Lady Gaga display in the beginning dissipates long before the film gets around to it. Without ever really getting around to it.