A Review of ‘A Star Is Born’

Lady Gaga shines, while Cooper also shows he’s got some real talent behind the camera.

 

You know him as the last member standing of the Guardians of the Galaxy, or as the boring one from the Hangover movies. Now Bradley Cooper is widening his scope: as he directs, stars, and is one of the three writers for 2018’s A Star is Born. But what can he add to a story that’s been told time and time again?

For those not in the know, A Star is Born is a remake of the 1937 film of the same name which was itself remade in 1954, 1976, and also had a Bollywood version made in 2013. So, for what is essentially the fifth time this story is being told, it should have something special to help it stand out – and I’m very happy to say it does.

A Star is Born tells the story of a famous country singer Jackson Maine (Cooper), discovering and falling for Ally (Gaga). He is able to help kick-start her professional music career, and the film follows their relationship during her rise to stardom.

At it’s best A Star is Born is a beautifully made, wonderfully directed film, bolstered by some of the sincerest performances you can find. And even at it’s worst, it’s an admirable film.

Cooper shows confidence for his first time behind the camera. He isn’t afraid to get up close and intimate with the actors for the right moments, but he’ll also let it pull back and give the actors room to breathe. The highlights are more often than not the concert scenes, this is where Coopers lets himself show off a little bit, and it results in the most engaging scenes from the film.

In terms of performance, he’s fine. That may sound harsh, but Bradley Cooper’s one of those actors you can always trust to give a decent performance. Not outstanding or anything, but always good enough. That goes for his singing as well, he can hold a note, but it’s not going to be what people really remember leaving this film.

However, I can’t help but feel that him starring in the film works against him directing it. That’s not to say it doesn’t work at all when directors star in their own films. But here, the direction is distinctly better when Cooper is off-screen. Additionally, I’m not sure how to feel about some of the hero-worship surrounding his character. Yes, he is playing a famous singer, and granted, it’s not like that for the whole film. But it does literally begin with Cooper being cheered at by a massive crowd. So, make of that what you will.

The real breakout star of the film is Lady Gaga as Ally. Unlike most musicians turned actors, where it feels like them acting is nothing more than a gimmick to sell tickets, it’s very difficult to imagine anyone other than Gaga in the role. Everything about her performance is stellar, and when Cooper’s allowed to focus the direction around her, the film is nothing short of impeccable. She owns near enough every moment she gets.

Cooper may have directed, starred, and partly written it, but this is Gaga’s film.

Also, seeing as it is the talking point about the film. Yes, the music is pretty damn great. Though in my eyes, nothing really comes close to the main theme ‘Shallow’. Indeed, the scene where that song gets properly performed for the first time is where the film peaks. When the film’s got everything firing on all cylinders. It’s fairly early on, and that’s not saying the rest of the film is bad. Far from it. But nothing else quite matches it.

A Star is Born is less a film that stands on its own, and more supported by the work and passion of everyone involved in its making. If it wasn’t for Cooper’s direction and Gaga’s performance elevating the material, then this is a film that would have probably come and gone without anyone giving a care in the world. It just goes to show that when you’ve got something to say, people listen.

The Commodore Cinema is playing A Star is Born every day at 19:30 until Thursday 25th October. See it while you still can.