By Ché Zuro
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star Is Born"
This film was on the bottom of my "must watch" queue because I do not like remakes, regardless of whether the orignals were good or not. Generally, I wish the studios would just get creative and write/produce unique films, but in the case of A Star Is Born, I was pleasantly surprised
In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper plays Jack, a pretty darn famous musician with a big alcohol problem, who by chance wanders into a bar featuring a drag queen show. Ally, played by Lady Gaga, a friend of the performers, sings a tune, and grabs Jack's attention. As he helps her with her rise to fame, he self destructs.
This film with the same old "boy meets girl" and the destruction of a relationship due to alcoholism was weary, but the excitement of the concert scenes, songwriting moments, and most of the acting made this worth seeing.
In her film debut, Lady Gaga was totally lost within her character. Seeing her awkward at first then gaining more confidence in her new found serious music career was relatable, while seeing and hearing her perform blew me away. She is as great as an actor as she is musical performer, although the role seemed close to home for her, with much of her part being something she more than likely has gone through. Ally rises from an unknown who works hard doing whatever it takes to just sing, to rising high in her chosen field. Although I loved her acting, I hope she does not leave behind her music career to further pursue acting, unless it also includes her music. (Hint - more musical films, please!)
Bradley Cooper was adequate in the part, but I would have loved to have seen more of the tender and vulnerable side of his out-of-control alcoholic rock star. Getting to know Jack was much harder. He remained, at least to me, Bradley Cooper acting like Jack. Perhaps this had something to do with his direction of himself in the film?
What a great surprise to see Andrew Dice Clay playing Ally's father, being encouraging yet protective, in a role that could lead to more interesting things for Clay. And the casting of Sam Elliott as Jack's brother Bobby, was equally exciting. We see the competition between these brothers and learn more about their younger lives. These scenes were the only time we got a glimpse of Jack's softer side.
This update of A Star Is Born, since the Streisand/Kristofferson failure, was a refreshing take on new music, including sounds different from Jack's country-rock type stadium music. Ally being asked to be the musical performer on
Saturday Night Live, with, of course, Alex Baldwin as the guest host, was fun and not just possible but probable. This made the film much more realistic.
The music was fantastic! Bradley Cooper can sing! But hearing Gaga singing some of those songs was gut wrenching, and at times I found myself sobbing with the reality of her emotion. She nailed the part and broke our hearts in this film role. Noticing that many of the songs were written by Cooper and Gaga, we also see Lukas Nelson (Willie's son as well as frontman for The Promise Of The Real) in many of the writing credits, possibly giving more grit to the very polished tunes, as well as tuning up the modern sounds with another co-writer, Mark Ronson.
All in all this is another must-see from this awards season.