Disclaimer: As a radical sentimentalist with a blinding affection for all things tenderhearted, you might find the following examination to be completely biased, unreasonable and even outright laughable.
An additional disclaimer: If you find yourself to be one of these people, I encourage you to drop your hardened presuppositions and pry your heart open with the pliers only Bradley Cooper’s gravelly, country baritone can provide.
Three remakes in, it’s a wonder someone was willing to take another chance on A Star is Born. The 1976 Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version is widely acknowledged as a cheese fest. But what else could it possibly be? It’s the seventies, after all; a time when it almost seemed as though people were making B movies on purpose. Almost.
Bradley Cooper – rugged, normally tipsy but talented as-can-be, takes on the role of smooth-talking rock star Jack. Real life Cooper also took on the role as co-writer, director and star for the film – taking a big step in a very correct direction for his imminent expansion into Hollywood World.
Hungry for a career that does her ten-mile-high voice the justice it deserves, Ally (played by a glittering Lady Gaga) finds herself in her supposed mid-thirties, living with her Hollywood-obsessed father and working a service job she’s less than passionate about.
Through a drunken (on Jack’s part) twist of fate, the two fuse together in a drag bar during an ethereal rendition of La Vie En Rose, courtesy of Ally. This is where our Romeo and Juliet first see each other, and man, do they really see each other. At the end of the song (chills) Jack is visibly captivated by Ally’s vocal ability, as well as her star quality, which is teeming and apparent.
In this iconic scene, Ally turns over, stretched long across the bar in a sigh, and sees Jack, well, seeing her. The slow-motion, soft contrast shot coupled with the high intensity blood-red light seeping across her features makes for a more than memorable snapshot of the soon-to-be-pop singer.
While the theme may be common – a spiraling rock star and a budding pop sensation collide in an overly romantic explosion of emotion and feeling, this movie brims with subtleties in characterization and plot. This makes for an overall entertaining, endearing and even heart wrenching movie that speaks straight into the hearts of music lovers (and just plain old lovers) everywhere.
It’s hard not to compare Ally to Gaga herself – who struggles in the film with sacrificing her truest art for the sake of none more than the enticing bright lights of stardom. When Jack interrogates her about her lack of confidence in her craft, Ally makes it known that she’s gotten backlash for her physical appearance – specifically her nose – and that almost everyone she’s ever shown her music to has said, “I love your music, but I don’t like the way you look.” Above Ally’s bed in her room is a framed vinyl record of none other than Carole King’s “Tapestry.” Carole represented a new form of woman songwriter in the seventies – one that stepped out from behind the curtain of writing pop hits to show the world her music, as well as her face.
And the inclusion of the 1971 album in Ally’s room is no coincidence. Connections can be drawn left and right for Ally as a woman trying to break out into the songwriting world.
It’s okay to be bummed that it’s Jack (an already famous white male) that urges Ally, almost desperately, into the spotlight. However, she needed the nudging – no matter the nudger.
What ensues is a two hour plus battle of the couple’s necessary independence and inseparable togetherness, which we all know can concoct a bit of a mess.
But what an un-messy movie this was. It was organized from head to toe with incredible musical moments, down-to-earth (and okay, fine – sometimes sticky sweet) dialogue. Topped off with performances by Sam Elliott and a poignant appearance from Dave Chappelle and all wrapped up in the pretty bow of Cooper and Gaga’s incontestable chemistry, you’ll think about this film for a long time.
Oh, the music. All original for the film, the music makes for an emotive listening experience to say the least. From the tastefully fuzzy rock and roll bass line that immediately opens the film to grocery store parking lot serenades delivered in nervous animation, the musical numbers are memorable and catchy. Cooper’s performance, musically speaking, is impressive – if you can get past him miming playing the guitar most of the time, that is. Gaga is possibly flawless. Her voice shines through every crack and crevice and warms every inch of the human soul.
The final song, delivered by Ally, is intended to tear-jerk. And if you’ve bought it by then, you will. No matter what the title has to say, a star isn’t born in this film so much as it’s reincarnated, reborn. And we’re all better for it.