Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave - 12 notes and the octave repeat. It's the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer this world is how they see those 12 notes. That's it.
There is something universal about the tale of "A Star is Born", so much so that Bradley Cooper's directorial debut is the third remake of the 1937 original. The setting and characters change to fit the time, but the underlying story remains the same. Two stars meet and connect, with one on the way up, and one on the way down. Cooper also plays the leading role, while Lady Gaga is an inspired choice alongside him.
Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a bona fide star, but he suffers from severe alcohol and drug addiction problems. After another sold out concert, his search for a drink takes him to a drag bar, where Ally (Gaga) astounds him with a rendition of La Vie En Rose. He falls in love with both her and her voice. He wants to whisk her away to his world of fame and fortune, and to make her a star. She is hesitant, having given up long ago on the quest for fame, but he is charismatic and genuine and she's taken in by him. He encourages her to join him on stage and share some of her own songs with the world. She branches into solo efforts, and shines so brightly that she eventually begins to step out of Jackson's shadow. Soon she has her own manager and embarks on a career full of the potential that Jackson always promised her she had. However, as Ally's career takes off, Jackson's begins to decline, as his demons threaten to swallow him whole.
A Star is Born could easily have fallen into the realms of mediocrity. It tells a very well trodden tale about the ecstasies and pitfalls of fame. However, it has something that sets its apart, and makes it an utterly absorbing watch. It's an emotional tour de force with a grounding in a harsh reality, and is driven by strong performances from its two leads and superb direction throughout. You feel as if it's a movie that really understands its characters, and simply affords them the platform to lay themselves bare. It's not a musical, but it allows some full renditions of original songs by Gaga and Cooper, and why not, music is the lens through which our characters see the world, and how they show their fear, pain, and joy. It's not a tale of jealousy, even as Ally's career inevitably begins to outpace Jackson's, their love for each other is tested to the limit and never falters. To her, the gift of stardom was everything, but for him, well, it was all he had left to offer. As his life and career crumbles through addiction and his loss of hearing, she sticks with him, supporting and caring for him as he did when she was on the way up.
The world of Ally and Jackson is littered with a supporting cast who could have made it. Ally's father, who was told he was better than Sinatra, Jackson's father and brother, who could have made it with just a better band name, and no doubt the countless others who stand in the wings watching every time they're on stage. Maybe, just maybe, it's that Jackson and Ally understand something that they don't, that all that really matters in this world, is what you have to say to it.
|Runtime: 135 minutes|