Once in a while, a film came along that you couldn’t stop thinking and talking about for days, maybe weeks. I may be one of the last few people in the universe who have never seen any of the three prior adaptation of A Star Is Born. Somehow I managed to avoid reading about the whole story, which adds a bit of mystery to it all. But even if you have seen all three and very familiar with this epic love drama, you still should see Bradley Cooper’s version simply because well, it’s an amazing film.
The contrast between two musicians at two opposite spectrum, one shooting up the stratosphere and the other on a downward spiral sure makes for a great cinematic adaptation. Right from the moment the film opens, with Cooper’s Jackson Maine going up to the stage, popping pills before he performed to an audience of thousands. You can see the dread and sadness in his eyes… despite all his fame and money and success. I was immediately blown away by Cooper’s gravely voice, apparently he trained so much that he lowered his voice down one octave! The whole scene was so beautifully-filmed and the angle from the stage makes you feel like you’re actually there.
It doesn’t take long before Jackson meets the woman he soon falls in love with that would change his life forever. Lady Gaga’s Ally singing La Vie En Rose in that drag club will surely thrill her Little Monsters but as more of a casual fan of hers, I too was captivated by her. Gaga’s star quality is indisputable, but it’s after she takes her makeup off is when she truly shines. That’s another directorial decision that works perfectly in the film, that Cooper insisted Gaga strips down to her au naturel look and shows her true beauty.
The romance itself is more of a slow burn… and boy is it ever mesmerizing. I love that Cooper take the time for us to get to know both of them and actually witness two strangers fall in love. That scene in a convenience store is both funny and touching, Jackson using a frozen veggie bag as an ice pack is the stuff of rom-com meet-cute. But their romance is not cutesy, it’s intense and heartfelt. The moment Ally belted her own song in an empty parking lot was truly a memorable one. That was memorable moment to be sure, but the moment Ally got up on stage and sang a duet of The Shallow with Jackson gave me chills! This film has a phenomenal soundtrack that lives up to the fact that it’s about artists in the music industry. Every song is beautiful and emotionally-resonant, perhaps even more so because in the context of this beautifully-realized story. You feel for both Jackson and Ally. The roller coaster ride of their whirlwind relationship swells you up to cloud nine level, only to crash it down that you literally feels a pang in your heart. I packed SO many tissues going in but I still almost ran out. I was even thinking if anyone didn’t shed a tear or at least choked up watching this, one should check their pulse.
The chemistry between Gaga and Cooper has been all over the news and truly it’s something to behold on screen. It’s one of those magical cinematic pairing that’ll be talked about for ages. Obviously Gaga is already an iconic music star, but this film proves she’s got what it takes to be a movie star as well. She’s got this magnetic presence and yet somehow relatable in the way she portrays Ally who’s vulnerable and insecure. So when Jackson tells her she’s beautiful, her aghast reaction is believable, just like many of us women feel that way as well. I also appreciate the message about having an authentic voice and something real to say in an industry where artists are often dictated by producers, the media, even fans, to be something they’re not.
As for Cooper, much has been talked about his phenomenal directing debut and rightly so. I’d be rooting for him in the Best Director (and even Best Picture) category come award season, but I’d also be rooting for him to at least nab a Best Actor category. His Jackson Maine is classic leading man material… there’s a particular moment halfway in the film that’s both funny but also cringe-worthy and heart-wrenching. I don’t want to spoil it for you but the expression in Jackson’s eyes didn’t just tug my heart strings, it ripped it to shreds. Pardon the melodrama here but I feel it’s appropriate for this review.
The supporting cast is great all around. Sam Elliot definitely stood out as Jackson’s older brother. It’s quite amusing how Cooper trained to match Elliot’s trademark super-deep voice and it worked to make the casting even more believable. Dave Chapelle is fun to watch as Jackson’s bestie, wish he had more screen time though. One thing I notice though, is that aside from Gaga, there’s not a single memorable female performer in this film. It’s not really a criticism, more of an observation, but I couldn’t help but wish there’s at least one or two female supporting cast here.
Overall though, this is one sublime motion picture that defies the theory that ‘all remakes are automatically bad.’ Largely thanks to Cooper’s masterful direction and casting choice (that is casting himself and believing in Gaga as Ally), as well the sharp script by Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters. The cinematography by Matthew Libatique is gorgeous and has that immersive quality. As I mentioned before, some of the concert scenes (partly filmed at Coachella Festival) makes you feel like you’re there on stage with the performers. Cooper’s vocal training paid off, but more importantly, I think his clear vision of what he wants this film to look, feel and sound proves that he’s an artist to be reckoned with. I sometimes giggle when I think he’s also the same actor voicing Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Now that’s range, folks!
This is a love story for the ages… that’s actually more than just epic romance. I’m glad I finally get to see A Star Is Born that feels as timeless as ever.
Have you seen the latest ‘A Star Is Born’? I’d love to hear what you think!