Whenever somebody mentions the word remake, it feels as though there’s an air of disdain floating throughout the room, as if remaking or reimagining a story will inherently result in an inferior end product; A Star is Born (2018) stands as a towering example that this judgement is flawed. If the end product can produce a new angle that is interesting, emotional, and well-executed – I say, bring it!
In this third in a line of remakes of the original film A Star is Born (1937), Bradley Cooper helms as both the director and one of the lead acting roles in this musical romantic drama. Cooper plays the role of Jackson Maine, a famous country-rock musician with a host of debilitating addictions alongside medical issues looming on his horizon. He meets Ally, played by Lady Gaga; a talented yet uncertain woman with a spark in her eye and a deep desire to make something of her life. Together they form a deep bond; but as their lives spiral in different directions they are faced with confronting the realities of how their relationship is changing.
Ultimately this is not a plot driven story, and do not expect it to be, quite simply, this is a classical love story driven by quality writing and not sappy camp; a rarity these days. This is, in essence, a story about the unconditional love of two individuals, both who make mistakes, but retain unflinching loyalty to one another. Both Ally and Jack struggle with their own identity issues. Jack’s uncontrollable alcoholism and medical complications take their toll, it forces him into deep depressive tendencies, becoming a shell when the bottle of liquor comes out. Ally however is caught on the complicated roller-coaster that is stardom, it forces a superficial mask on her, much like the modern pop-singers of today. Ally begins taking the form of a hyper-labelized glamour-queen, no longer resembling the person she once was, at least on the outside. Despite all this the story remains focused on showing how far two people are willing to go for one another, less on the cynicism of love and more on the extreme lengths at which one will go for love.
Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, and Sam Elliot give Oscar-worthy performances. This is without a doubt Cooper’s most honest and powerful performance he has provided on-screen. Coopers portrayal is eerily realistic, from his drunken mannerisms and personality traits, it was almost as if you could smell the liquor on him. Additionally I was stunned to see the level of emotional layers that Lady Gaga provided, especially through her raw vocals and emotional vulnerability. Her final song is nothing short of moving. The additional performance by Sam Elliott helps elevate this cast to new heights, his role as somewhat of a defacto father to Jackson is gut wrenching; as their relationship is nothing short of complicated and messy.
Cinematographer Matthew Libatique manages to make the film immersive from its usage of frantic camerawork on stage, the handheld camera stays in line with the characters to show their perspective. As well as handheld pans between characters or tracking shots through tight spaces, all of this makes this film that much more intimate. The impressive use of colour helps reflect the direction in which the characters’ relationship is heading. From gleaming optimistic sunsets to bleak and coloured-drowned rooms. The live stage adds greatly to the visceral feeling that is felt when combining the original music performed by the original star in this format. Seeing them perform this music and hear it was equally as satisfying.
Ultimately Bradley Cooper shines in his directorial debut, demonstrating his ability in front and behind the camera, while bringing out a remarkable and compelling first-time film performance from Lady Gaga. With an intent to de-glamourize the lifestyle of the entertainment industry; Bradley Cooper has struck a chord on multiple levels, providing a long needed revisit into a story about love, something that has felt long overdue in Hollywood. A Star is Born is persistent in fleshing out its characters, Cooper has done what many believed to be undoable with his wildcard choice of actress. A Star is Born lives up to its name, reshaping the careers of its two leads while reinvigorating the classical love story in Hollywood.