Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born is the third remake of the David O. Selznick produced 1937 romance and while it’s a handsomely put together and well acted piece, it relies too much on coincidence and contrivance. Cooper’s film has more in common with the 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson than the original, taking place in the world of contemporary country and pop music.
Cooper is Jackson Maine, a booze-soaked country singer with a drug problem. One night he stumbles into a drag bar where he meets Lady Gaga’s Ally, a singer-songwriter who is working as a waitress (in a restaurant, not a cocktail bar). They have an instant connection and Maine takes Ally under his wing. Soon her star is on the rise, while his addictions threaten to destroy their relationship.
A Star Is Born is watchable because of the performances. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga both deliver in spades, nailing the dramatic beats and the musical numbers. The big surprises being Gaga’s acting and Cooper’s singing. The supporting cast also impress, with Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Elliott all delivering sterling work despite relatively small roles. It’s a shame that Cooper decided to put too much emphasis on the (admittedly rather good) musical cues, sacrificing character development for lucrative record sales. You never get to truly feel that Cooper and Gaga are in love. They tell us they are, but the connective tissue to their relationship is missing. If the acting wasn’t so good, this would have torpedoed the film.
As a directorial debut, A Star Is Born is an impressive start for Cooper. The concert sequences look great, which was surely helped by having Live Nation Entertainment onboard as a production partner. However, Cooper might just be a touch too uptight as a filmmaker and he must be willing to throw some humour into the melodrama to lighten the tone. What is romance without laughter?
While it might not be the masterpiece that Sean Penn tells us it is, A Star Is Born is an entertaining old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama. Good performances and good tunes mean that it’s far from a slog to sit through, but uneven storytelling means that fails to hit the top of the charts. However, over $400 million at the global box office means that I might not be the target demographic for this musical romance.
Making of goodies and music videos are a solid package for A Star Is Born. But where’s the commentary from writer-director-star-producer and songwriter Bradley Cooper?