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It is a rare phenomenon where a movie rings true to its title, yet A Star Is Born is defining of this. Not only is an acting star born in Lady Gaga, a singer and director in Bradley Cooper, but also a movie that showcases much more than the rise and downfall of success and fame.
There is a scene early on where Ally (Lady Gaga) sashays her way down a bar singing a jaw-dropping version of “La Vie en Rose.” Her vocals are perfect, emotional and resonate throughout the watching crowd, including rocker, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper). As their eyes meet, an instant attraction is formed, and deep love evolves, a love of each other’s talent. As Ally sings one of her original songs which eventually becomes a huge hit for both stars, we see the unforced chemistry between Gaga and Cooper, and it is a joy to watch.
It is worth mentioning the performances. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are electric together, selling every scene, interaction and song. Cooper’s portrayal of a musician, who has it all but is struggling with his demons is exceptional. He perfectly navigates the high-wire of a man who has always been the star, suddenly sinking into the shadows after Ally’s talent dominates his own.
It could be said that the same happens between Cooper and Gaga, though unlike Jackson, you can see Cooper revelling in his co-stars’ glory, and what a glorious performance Lady Gaga gives.
It is a true testament to her acting skill, as Ally she is uncomfortable with her talent, lacking confidence and struggling with the idea of being the star. Whereas in real life Lady Gaga thrives in front of the crowd. To see a natural performer force herself to seem unnatural on the stage shows the huge level of commitment Gaga made to the movie and more so, the freedom Bradley Cooper as Director allowed.
What is the ultimate compliment to these two stars, is how natural they make the storytelling feel. Each emotion doesn’t feel forced, or coerced. They share the screen, instead of allowing one to dominate it. Their love story doesn’t seem constructed and you don’t just go along with it for the sake of the movie, you believe it. It unfolds slowly, and it’s worth noticing that rarely do Ally and Jackson tell each other they love each other. It highlights that age-old belief that real love doesn’t need to be declared.
Both Gaga and Cooper are strong contenders for Oscar nominations and would be worthy winners, but another contender would be the music.
A movie about the music industry must have a great soundtrack. ‘A Star Is Born’ has that, but a touch of something more. The music isn’t just to make the movie sound good, each song has a meaning to the characters and their progressing love story. From the popular track "Shallow" which is developed at the start of Ally and Jackson’s relationship both romantic and professional, to the final heart wrenching song “I’ll Never Love Again”; the music is as much a part of the script as the dialogue of the characters.
What is so impressive about the narrative of Cooper’s directorial debut is the indefinability of it. To most movies this would be problematic, but in the case of A Star Is Born, it is the foundation of its winning formula. The movie is neither a romantic comedy or a tragic story of substance abuse. It is neither a love story or musical. It is all these themes expertly written onto a song sheet and then told through creative storytellers.
Each theme that appears is fully explored and told with emotional depth and detail. Whether it be through the performances of the cast or the words spoken, or lyrics sung, they have an emotive weight that exemplifies the tone of A Star Is Born. Lady Gaga exemplifies this towards the end of the movie, her raw performance feels real, the pain in her eyes portrays a vulnerability that is hard to miss.
Bradley Cooper’s commitment to detail is defining of this too. He spent months working with musicians to fully understand the expressive nature of being a musician and he fully nails it, even writing his own music to feature in the movie. Cooper uses these skills to fully depict authentically the inner battle Jackson constantly faces, whether it be alcoholism or jealousy at the rising star of someone he loves.
A Star Is Born is much more than the longstanding tale of the pursuit of fame and success and the fallout from when it fails. It is a story about ordinary humanity in extraordinary circumstances. It places the tale of two different people, one already basking in the glow of fame and another wary of stepping into the white-hot light beside him. It tasks these complex themes into the hands of Director and actor Bradley Cooper and he handles them effortlessly. With the support of Lady Gaga, both circumnavigate the script with ease and add weight to the movie in every aspect.
It is a masterpiece.
As the movies ends and the credits roll, it is obvious that A Star Is Born is that rare culmination of talent, skill and the love of stories from all involved that amalgamate into a stunning visual and emotive experience that will truly stand the test of time. The irony was not lost on me that in the end, A Star Is Born is definitive of its title: A Star Is Born.
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