A star was born

Tim Powers

[media-credit name=”Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]“A Star is Born,” the fourth remake of the timeless Hollywood tale, directed by Bradley Cooper, and released on Oct. 5, is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Previous versions have stared Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. This version stars pop icon, Lady Gaga, in her debut film role.

The film chronicles the love life of Ally and Jackson Maine. When the film opens, Ally is working at a hotel and Jackson (Jack), is a country music superstar. The pair begin their story together when they meet at a drag bar where Ally is performing her rendition of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.” Jack, of course, was wowed by her performance, and the two meet backstage and the sparks begin to fly. Ally eventually gets a record deal and begins a career that eventually nets her a Grammy. But this is not before Ally is told by her manager to change her hair, something Gaga was told while her own career was beginning.

Unfortunately, for both Jack and Ally, Jack suffers from alcoholism, drug abuse, and hearing problems. For one person’s star to shine brighter another person’s star must dim. This causes much turmoil between the singers and causes disorder in regard to the state of his music career. The film never shies away from the awfulness of addiction. It is a brave choice of Cooper to portray the disease in the open light how he does. Due to it being a sensitive subject, it is admirable how delicate, but how beautifully it was handled.

Lady Gaga is a true star on screen. This film proves her talent ranges across a wide field of areas. Her career path has been one of the most interesting, going from the girl known for wearing a meat dress to a red carpet event, to the girl getting Oscar buzz for Best Actress. Her performance in the film is grounded, sensible, and above all, authentic. Gaga loses herself in the role, fully inhabiting Ally. It is true that the actress and the character have had a similar path in their rise to fame, but they couldn’t be more distinct from each other.

Bradley Cooper, who co-wrote, directed, starred and even has some songwriting credits, gives a career defining performance. Cooper, who is most well known for his Oscar-nominated performances in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” makes his directorial debut with a bang. Though, Cooper’s singing voice is the true surprise of the film. It’s so convincing that it’s a wonder he isn’t an actual country music star.

One aspect of the film that truly shined, in addition to the performances, is the cinematography done by Oscar-nominee Matthew Libatique, best known for his work on the Darren Aronofsky film, “Black Swan.” Libatique’s use of light to show the transition of Ally into a superstar is quite impressive. The angles the film is shot in look like a work of art at times.

The songs, all written by Gaga with various other songwriters, are some of her best work in years. “Shallow,” featured in the films trailer, that launched many memes, due to the wail Gaga delivers, is one of the standouts. It’s the song that begins and eventually defines Ally and Jack’s relationship. One of the tearjerker songs in the film “I’ll Never Love Again,” sounds very similar in vein to 90’s divas such as Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. When Gaga performs this song at the end of the film, it’s hard for anyone to hold back tears. These songs are almost a sure bet for Oscar nominations.

My only critique of the film is in regard to the screenplay. The film has a powerful first half, but begins to lose it’s way in the second half of the film plot-wise. But this is only a minor critique. Through and through, the film remains entertaining and engaging.

It is safe to say that this film is a powerful and towering debut for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. That it will have the power to open doors for both for years to come. It also seems the film will make waves at the box office for the next few weeks, making Warner Bros. executives and fans very happy.