Originally starring Janet Gaynor in 1937, then Judy Garland in 1954, and perhaps most famously, Barbara Streisand in 1976, a new version of A Star is Born has again arrived in cinemas with Lady Gaga in the leading role.
Although updated to modern times, the story stays the same. Jackson (Bradley Cooper), an alcoholic, drug addict rock star stumbles across Ally (Gaga) in a dive bar. He is immediately infatuated with her and sweeps her up into a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Soon, however, Ally eclipses Jackson’s fame, whilst being swallowed up by Hollywood and losing what originally made her different. Throughout the movie, Jackson battles both his demons and tinnitus, leading him to fall off the wagon time and time again, each time more destructive (both for Ally and himself) than the last. Ally cannot let Jackson go despite his increasingly damaging behaviour for her career and strives to fight for their relationship and Jackson’s help.
It is easy to forget that at the root of this movie is the musical romance genre. Cooper as director is able to perfectly depict both the backstage and onstage relationship of Jackson and Ally. Filming from behind the actors during the musical numbers and into the crowd, instead of from the crowd’s perspective captures the electrifying feeling of performance. Cooper, through the reimagined script is also able to show the toxic and volatile nature of an emotionally abusive relationship better than most films out there, whilst also managing to make cinematic what is both Jackson and Ally’s biggest flaw. Whilst both loving music and each other far too much for their own good, their willingness to put their sanity and health on the line is what becomes their downfall.
Gaga as Ally is captivating, and the audience finds it difficult to take their eyes off her, in what will surely be an Oscar nominated role for the singer/actress. Stripped of everything that usually makes her ‘Lady Gaga’ we are able to appreciate the raw talent of her voice which is perfectly matched with her acting abilities. Paired with Bradley Cooper, whose Jackson is raw and unapologetic as the clichéd rock star, Cooper is also able to bring a new level to a character we have seen time and time again. Both Ally and Jackson have the quality of being both completely closed off to the world but transparent with each other, and the electricity between the pair is breathtaking throughout the entire movie.
What is most heart breaking in the film is the ability to remind audience members with similar dreams both why they should follow these dreams, but equally, why they should not.
Image: Neal Preston