Directed by actor Bradley Cooper, this “A Star Is Born” is a glossy, heartfelt close remake of the 1976 film which starred Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand. The Cinderella story, which has actually been done twice previously (the first starred Judy Garland), is a Popish dazzling showcase for Lady Gaga and boasts the original production talents of Jon Peters.
Fans of the 1976 version will find the familiar. Jack (Bradley Cooper) is a Southern Rock musician with tinnitus who is quite talented but is an alcoholic. After a concert, he is desperate for a drink and finds himself in a transvestite bar. After swimming along, cocktail in hand, he catches sight of Ally (Lady Gaga) who is not a transvestite, and is enthralled by her looks and her singing. They go to a bar where Ally tells Jack of her low self-esteem and he sweetly tells her she is beautiful. A mutual crush begins.
Then Jack is badgered by an aggressive fan who invades his space. Ally is forced to sock him. The bond strengthens.
Cooper is earnest, shy and utterly authentic, while Lady Gaga is wondrous. The most compelling ingredient is the romance between the two and their shared magnetism is something to be experienced and measured. One absolutely believes these two are in love.
The story soars further with a riveting soundtrack. Cooper has a solid smoky sound and his numbers have a drumming force. While his film voice possesses a Sam Elliott rhythm that somehow manages not to be a parody. This is fortunate since Elliott happens to appear in the film as Jack’s brother.
Also arresting are the appearances of comedian Dave Chappelle as a person who finds Jack incapacitated and the infamous Andrew Dice Clay who plays Ally’s know-it-all father. Both actors offer some comedy while giving well timed and impactful shots of pathos.
Above all, however this is a story of attraction and volatility that will emotionally pull you along, due in no small part to Cooper’s painful vulnerability and Gaga’s undeniable cinematic allure. Intriguing it is to wonder if Jack is a creepy obsessive (with a fetish for face touching) or a romantic and to Cooper’s credit, he keeps us guessing.
The film works in parallel as either a requiem for a past male-dominant society or a call to a new pluralistic world.
All of the melodrama is here but thankfully it does not play sappy or artificial for one second. This is both a love relationship and an art relationship with alcohol and co-dependence in between but it is also utterly real, sad and energizing and Lady Gaga’s Punk, emotional virtuosity propels the film upward into orbit.
“A Star Is Born” is entertainment in the best sense of the word and Bradley Cooper has developed a popular story with apprehension, empathy and a sense of our new female-powered age.
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