2 hr. 16 min. | Rated M | Suicide, sex scenes, offensive language & drug use.
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Harney
Bradley Cooper is Jackson Maine, a bloated, spiralling country star who meets and falls in love with waitress/wannabe singer Ally (Lady Gaga). As the two fall in love, her star — with his help — is on the ascendant, while his quietly sinks. Can their love save him? Or will he, and they, fall under the weight of his emotional pain and addiction?
This is the fourth A Star Is Born to make it into the world and it’s George Cukor’s 1954 version starring Judy Garland that packed the greatest emotional punch. And it’s this one that 2018’s A Star Is Born shares most DNA with; the version brought to life by the perhaps-not-immediately obvious pairing of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
When we, and she, meet country star Jackson Maine (Cooper) — still packing out stadiums but, certainly, you feel, no longer at his best — he’s swollen, pale, doughy, his eyes swimming, the watery giveaway of a barely functioning alcoholic. In many fundamental respects, Cooper’s unrecognisable as the actor we know.
He’s immediately captivated by Lady Gaga’s Ally (as are we), when she appears in a drag bar performing ‘La Vie En Rose’ with painted black hair and stuck-on, super-arched eyebrows. So far, so Gaga. And herein lies the central question: can she, in her first feature, pull off the characterisation of a normal, insecure girl? The answer is yes. She puts in a performance that is both compelling and well-crafted and actually, you presume, pulls on her own rise. She brings a startling naturalism and lightness of touch that is completely at odds with her public persona.
Though the ‘star’ of the title is undoubtedly Gaga, the star of the film is undoubtedly Bradley Cooper. He’s astonishing as a man crippled by life-long emotional trauma — the death of his mother, addiction of his father and the debilitating tinnitus and hearing condition he’s had since birth.
A Star Is Born may be a remake, but Cooper and Lady Gaga make the material feel fresh, urgent and full of soul. A film both for the ages and for 2018. And when the final emotional punch is thrown, you’ll be left reeling at the originality and heart on display.