A fine addition to the A Star is Born tradition.
A Star is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Screenplay: Eric Roth, et al. based on William A. Wellman and Robert Carson story
Cast: Lady Gaga (Sin City: A Dame to Die For), Cooper
Runtime: 2 hr 15 min
By: John DeSando
“Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper)
After three previous versions of A Star is Born, director/co-writer/star Bradley Cooper has added a version worthy of the best of them. Cooper’s Jack is a charismatic rocker whose flaw is substance abuse, and Lady Gaga’s singer/songwriter, Ally, is an ingenuous talent who remains innocent through all the shenanigans required to be a star, not born but made.
Her opening number strutting on a bar singing La Vie en Rose clarifies why Jack fell for her immediately and why she is headed to glory. As the opening lyric might suggest, they are change agents for each other, not always in easy transitions.
Although the two first movies were about Hollywood, and the dangers of stardom we all knew even in 1937 and 1954, then Streisand’s (1976) and Cooper’s are all music, with Cooper’s superior take a lived-in rock atmosphere. In that way, Cooper’s is even better than Almost Famous.
Streisand and Kristoferson seem to exist for Streisand where Cooper’s couple is deeply in love but not strong enough to save Jack.
Although I tire of Jack’s incessant drinking, a tedium to watch after a few minutes, I accept it as the tragic element of a cliched story about the glory and the hell of the biz. Both Cooper and Gaga sing with such depth of feeling it is hard not to shed a tear at the sad outcome.
The film is also strong about the challenges of that road to stardom, uncompromising as it displays the forces changing Ally from a wholesome natural singer to a manufactured pop singer and marginalizes Jack for being a substance abuser and too old. The resonance today with the #MeToo emphasis on male domination is only too obvious. However, Cooper transforms Maine into a loving, not jealous lover.
The times they are a’changin’.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com