A Star Is Born
by Aaron Potter
through these very intimate performances you get a real sense that Jackson and Ally care about each other as people as well as musical talents in their own right
Read the synopsis for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, and there’s every chance you’d be reminded of The Simpsons episode where Homer helps down-on-her-luck waitress Lurleen Lumpkin find country singing stardom. That’s because, for as well-acted as this 2018 rendition of A Star Is Born might be, it’s almost impossible to go in without a certain knowledge of this classic love story. Despite this, it offers several surprises in the electric chemistry shared by its two leads, some breath-taking performance sequences, and sharp commentary on the potential dangers of fame.
The movie opens with Cooper’s gravelled rockstar Jackson Maine seemingly in his element. Shredding guitar in front of thousands of fans, A Star Is Born immediately sets the tone of the joys the music industry can bring. Only when he meets Lady Gaga’s Ally are we shown the inverse of what’s required to achieve such acclaim, both in her early days singing covers at a bar through to her becoming a worldwide phenomenon, forced to deal with the woes that come with it.
Both are troubled individuals crashing towards some kind of self-destruction, with only each other serving as the remedy. Cooper is gracefully conservative compared to some of the bullish roles he’s played previously, while Gaga’s is similarly stripped back. Thank heavens too, as it’s through these very intimate performances that you get a real sense that Jackson and Ally care about each other as people as well as musical talents in their own right, despite coming from wildly different backgrounds.
While they never linger long enough to outstay their welcome, the moments where A Star Is Born invites you on stage to witness the two’s performances are truly mesmerising. Filmed and recorded live before real festival crowds, they provided an all-around thrill and excitement that are a nice shakeup to the slower set pieces. Go into the film expecting a musical and you’ll be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean that the original songs littered throughout are any less catchy or endearing.
For as heart-warming and surprisingly grounded as A Star Is Born can feel, however, some very hasty pacing towards the back half of the film let it down a little. Jackson and Ally’s relationship is a much more interesting one when they’re both strangers to each other, and the gearshift to something deeper makes the movie a little predictable by the end. It’s a slight blemish on an otherwise beautifully made rendition of this legendary romance tale, one that does right to offer modern audiences something cliché, old-fashioned, but no less enchanting.